Jill Kolodner | February 15, 2021 | Car Accidents
GEICO is the second-largest automobile insurance company in the U.S. It collects more than $33 billion in premiums every year and returns about 75% of that on claims.
But the most telling GEICO statistic is that it consistently ranks below average in customer satisfaction with its claims handling. GEICO could not reach its level of profitability by paying claims generously. Instead, GEICO will often use every trick known to insurance companies to minimize claim payouts.
Here are some of the secrets to handling accident claims with GEICO and ways an attorney can help to make the process smoother.
GEICO Is Not on Your Side
Maryland is an at-fault insurance state. This means you will file your injury claim with the insurance company for the driver who caused the car accident.
Your claim will be assigned to an adjuster, who will then evaluate it. The adjuster will either deny your claim or make an initial offer based on your medical expenses, property losses, and lost wages.
The claim adjuster’s job is not to pay claims, but to protect GEICO’s interests. This means the adjuster will deny or reduce as many claims as possible.
There are a number of techniques that GEICO uses to deny or reduce claims.
Maryland is one of only four states that use pure contributory negligence. Under this doctrine, an injured person cannot recover any compensation if the injured person’s actions contributed in any way to the accident.
For example, suppose a driver speeds through a red light and hits your car. The driver’s insurer might not be required to pay any compensation to you if you did not see the car coming because you glanced at your phone right before you entered the intersection.
Insurers must pay for injuries caused by the at-fault driver. If the injuries existed before the accident, however, GEICO does not need to pay. GEICO might latch onto some innocent remark in your medical records to say that your injuries are actually pre-existing conditions that it cannot compensate.
Your damages include out-of-pocket medical bills. GEICO will scrutinize your medical bills and reduce your compensation if it believes your treatment was unnecessary. Worse yet, GEICO can reduce your compensation for necessary medical treatment if it feels the necessity was not fully documented.
In other words, GEICO’s settlement offers often exclude legitimate expenses because the medical records do not explain the reason for the expenses.
Since GEICO is not on your side, you should be careful in your interactions with the claim adjuster.
You Do Not Need To Give GEICO a Recorded Statement
The claim adjuster will contact you for a recorded statement. This is exactly what it sounds like. The claim adjuster will ask you questions about the accident during a recorded phone call.
Claim adjusters do not use recorded statements to investigate the accident. A police report, photos of the accident scene, damage estimates, and medical records can explain what happened. Instead, claim adjusters use recorded statements to find ways of denying or reducing your claim.
An innocent statement, like saying you are “okay” when the claim adjuster asks how you feel, can be twisted to say your injuries were faked or exaggerated. Similarly, a claim adjuster might ask about old injuries. Saying you injured your knee playing tennis in high school might form a basis to deny all claims for treatment of your knee.
GEICO could tell you that it needs your statement to process your claim. A claim adjuster could hint that your claim will be processed faster if you give a statement. There is no truth to either of these statements.
You do not need to give a recorded statement. If you want to give a recorded statement, you should consider having a lawyer represent you during the call. This will reduce the odds that your recorded statement will give GEICO ammunition to use against you.
Your Claim Will Take a Long Time
Maryland law requires insurance companies to act “promptly” if liability is clear. But the law does not define how long “prompt” is or how long a company can take if liability is unclear. As a result, insurance companies can slow the process down to pressure you to accept their initial low offer.
GEICO knows what kind of desperation you feel after an auto accident. You have medical bills to pay. You may be unable to work due to your injuries. GEICO knows that the longer it takes to process your claim, the more likely you will be to accept a settlement offer.
Insurance companies tend to avoid tricks like this with lawyers. Maryland has several laws to deal with unfair claim settlement practices and GEICO prefers to avoid lawsuits that could punish it for its practices. If GEICO starts to stray from a reasonable timeline, a lawyer can remind the claim adjuster of its duties under Maryland law.
GEICO’s Claim Adjusters Know How To Negotiate
One of the most important skills for a claim adjuster is negotiation. GEICO’s initial offer is almost always low. Anecdotes suggest that GEICO frequently offers as little as 20% of the claim value in its first offer.
This first offer poses little risk to GEICO. If you accept the offer, GEICO has saved itself a substantial amount of money. If you reject the offer, GEICO has room to negotiate.
The negotiation over your settlement could be arduous. Claim adjusters are skilled and experienced negotiators. If your initial offer is too low, you should consider retaining an injury lawyer to negotiate on your behalf. An experienced lawyer can match the skill and knowledge of the claim adjuster to try to get a fair settlement.
GEICO Does Not Like Losing Lawsuits
No company likes to be sued. More accurately, no company likes to lose lawsuits. Insurance companies will walk right up to the line, but will ultimately back down from lawsuits they cannot win.
If liability is clear, the case will settle and the negotiations will just set the price. This means you will need to be patient during the negotiations.
Hiring a lawyer to represent you during negotiations provides many benefits, including:
- Evaluating the case, so you’ll know when GEICO makes a fair offer
- Negotiating with GEICO to obtain a fair offer
- Filing a lawsuit if GEICO refuses to make a fair offer
As a result, a lawyer will often obtain a greater settlement for a client than that client could negotiate on his or her own.