Brian White | January 28, 2021 | Car Accidents
State Farm is the largest auto insurer in the U.S. Across America, State Farm writes about 17% of all auto insurance policies.
State Farm is also the largest auto insurer in Texas. Aside from USAA’s policies for active military and veterans, State Farm offers the cheapest premiums among the major insurers in Texas.
State Farm has an average reputation for claim processing and fewer complaints than most other insurers. But State Farm did not grow into the largest insurer by being generous when paying claims. Like most insurers, State Farm will scrutinize every car accident claim and use every legal avenue to avoid paying — or overpaying — claims for property damage or personal injury.
Here are some hints about how to handle a car accident claim with State Farm, as well as some of the ways that a lawyer can try to improve your settlement or damages award when you’re dealing with State Farm.
Know This: State Farm is Not on Your Side
Texas is an “at fault” state. This means that you’ll need to file a claim for injuries and property damage through the at-fault driver’s insurance company. From the start, this places State Farm in an adversarial position.
State Farm will have two primary interests while processing your claim:
- Pay as Little as Possible: State Farm is a very profitable corporation. It makes money by collecting as much revenue from insurance premiums as it can and paying out as little in claims as possible.
- Protect Its Insured: Insurance companies must defend their insured. This means that they will be reluctant to admit liability and pay your claim. Unless the records show clear liability – like in the case of a drunk driving accident where there’s clear evidence of fault– State Farm will likely try to use ambiguity to shield its customer.
However, State Farm is also pragmatic. It does not want to get hit with a bad-faith insurance claim. As a result, State Farm will pay legitimate claims. But it might take a lot of time and effort to get them to pay.
You Do Not Need to Give a Recorded Statement
An insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy is called a third-party claim. State Farm will assign a claims adjuster to the claim. This claims adjuster will reach out to you and ask you to give a recorded statement.
A recorded statement is exactly what it sounds like. A claims adjuster will ask you a series of questions to investigate the accident. The adjuster will record the conversation and use it while processing the claim.
You have no obligation to give a recorded statement to State Farm. If the police report and medical records fully document your claim, the adjuster can decide without ever talking to you.
State Farm will try to convince you to give a recorded statement. The adjuster might even make it sound like the claim cannot be processed without it. But you should resist the pressure to give one.
The adjuster will seize on anything you say that might cast doubt on your claim. For example, “I didn’t see the car coming” will be twisted into an admission that your distracted driving caused the accident.
An adjuster might twist your statement against you to say that:
- Your injuries have been faked or exaggerated.
- You have claimed pre-existing injuries.
- Your version of the accident is inconsistent.
- The police report is wrong.
- Your medical records are incorrect.
- You are to blame — at least partially — for your injuries.
Any of these assertions will give the adjuster an excuse to deny or reduce your claim. To avoid the adjuster twisting your own words against you, do not give a recorded statement.
The Insurance Company Might Move Slowly to Nudge You to Accept a Lowball Offer
After a claims adjuster receives your claim and supporting documents, the insurance company has 15 days to request additional information. Once the insurance company receives everything it has requested, it has 15 more days to make a determination on the claim. If the insurance company needs more time to review the claim, it can take up to 45 additional days if it informs you of the reason for the delay.
If the insurance company takes the full period at each step, you can count on at least 75 days before you receive a claim decision. Delays tend to work in the insurance company’s favor because you will be desperate for your settlement. You will likely have medical bills and other costs associated with your injuries, but may be unable to work because of these same injuries.
This will allow the insurance company to use your needs against you. When the insurance company makes its first offer, you will be primed for a quick acceptance just to get some money.
State Farm Will Probably Send a Low First Offer
State Farm’s first offer will probably seem extremely low. While State Farm has not released any data about its settlement offers, anecdotal stories suggest that the initial offer can vary widely. Some adjusters make a fair settlement offer, but many others will send a low offer, often less than one-tenth of the documented expenses.
This negotiating strategy provides a few advantages to State Farm:
- You might accept the low offer, saving State Farm a lot of money.
- State Farm will have a lot of space to negotiate.
- As it increases its offers during negotiations, you will feel the pressure to accept a settlement, rather than take on the risk of a lawsuit.
Remember that lawyers have knowledge and experience in negotiation. This allows them to counter State Farm’s negotiating strategy with facts and evidence from your case.
Hiring a Lawyer Provides Advantages When Dealing With State Farm
Legal representation can give you an inside track to maximize your settlement or damages award because:
- Claim adjusters tend to avoid pressure tactics and negotiating tricks when dealing with a lawyer.
- Lawyers can help you to fairly evaluate your case and fight to secure a settlement that reflects its true value
- An experienced lawyer knows what to expect from the insurance companies and may have even worked with their adjusters previously.
- If negotiations fail, the lawyer can file a lawsuit to try for a damages award.
Legal representation during a claim against State Farm could provide you with your best chance of obtaining a fair settlement or damages award. The role of the lawyer is to provide you with advice while advocating for an outcome that you deserve. This allows you to focus on your recovery while your representative focuses on dealing with State Farm.