Don’t talk to insurance adjusters. Do get free money from banks.

I’ve got new articles up at both my day jobs, in which I counsel how to get bonus bucks from banks and how to protect yourself in the aftermath of a car accident.

“Secrets of car insurance adjusters,” my column at MSN Money, is not a primer on how to file a false whiplash claim and, contrary to some of the readers’ comments, it does not say that all adjusters are heartless crooks. It’s a column that gives basic info on how to protect yourself — i.e., how not to damage your own position inadvertently — after a vehicle accident. [Edited to add: After MSN Money changed platforms, all my old articles over there vanished. Sorry about that.]

Eventually you’ll have to talk to the other guy’s adjuster. Just do it carefully. The folks I interviewed, some of whom are in the insurance business and some of whom are former adjusters themselves, point out potential pitfalls that some of us could never imagine.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Read the piece and you’ll know at least a little more.


Easy money?

I made $200 in less than an hour recently — legally. A bank gave it to me, just for opening an account. Read more about this in “Get free money from banks! (But watch the fine print)” at Get Rich Slowly.

Opening an account for cash bonuses isn’t the right move for everyone. It’s important to ask questions such as “Is that totally free checking?” or “Is there a minimum balance required?” Not everyone is in the position of getting direct deposit, either. The GRS piece highlights both the pros and cons of opening accounts for bonuses.

But if this tactic would work for you, why turn down an extra $200?

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  1. Woooowww. You opened up a can of worms with your insurance piece! Ad hominem attacks, adjusters attacking points you never made (at least, I missed the part where you told people to conceal things from the police and doctors – maybe I wasn’t reading closely enough…) – I think you hit a nerve.

    I have to say, our experiences with claims adjusters has been largely positive. When my husband’s truck was totaled in an accident that was the other driver’s fault, her company’s adjuster met with us several days after the accident, was quick to offer to pay for a rental, and paid what we believed to be a fair value for the truck.

    I like to believe the majority of adjusters (as well as the majority of people) are honest and good – but there are some bad apples out there, and it’s good to be aware of them and their tactics.

    (I’ve been reading some other articles over at MSN Money, and I may have spoken too quickly. It seems some commenters there are quick to jump in and lash out, no matter what the subject. Ouch!)

    • Donna Freedman

      @Sherry: I’ve had good experiences with adjusters, too. But there are definitely some shady operators out there and some less-than-ethical business practices — as there in probably just about every profession.
      You’re right about them bringing up points I never made. People read inattentively or they don’t read at all, i.e., they see the headline and they think they know what the article says. This happens all the time. Sigh.
      Thanks for reading — and for not lashing out. 😉

  2. I had read that article with an open mind, because I AM an insurance adjuster (or was until two weeks ago when I moved into a new position). As you said, not all insurance adjusters or companies are bad guys, and I hope people believe that. I work for a very large company, and from my personal experience (and no, I’m not trying to earn brownie points @ work), we operate from a very ethical standpoint, including myself, supervisor, manager, a claims operation manager — I regularly interact with all of them.

    I worked primarily as a coverage OCR, but I also completed liability investigations. Our goal is to pay what was owed by the policy. I have never been told/encouraged by upper management to cheat a customer out of anything. But yes, we do have to settle claims fairly quickly because people need to get their vehicles repaired/injuries taken care of & move on with their lives. And the sheer number of claims we receive on a daily basis is unfathomable. We also have to abide by the Dept of Insurance guidelines.

    I think the best thing people can do to protect themselves is education. Know what your policy covers, review all documentation you receive -ask questions if you’re unsure what something means, make sure you’re paying your bills on time, & understand what may be expected of you if you’re involved in a loss.

    If you don’t mind me sharing, here’s a link to a page on my blog with posts I’ve written about auto insurance. I’m currently working on a post about what to do if you’re involved in a loss:


  3. And P.S. I’m not angered by your post (hope I didn’t come across as rude), just an important subject to me 🙂

  4. wow wow wow just read your secret of insurance adjusters. I backed into someone a few years ago, literally tapped them, and they took me to the cleaners. They were crooks big time. I wish I had read this…..great info. As you can tell i’m still PO’d about this!

  5. Reta Davis

    Wow! Some of those comments were brutal and totally uncalled for. You are very brave (I knew that) to be out there writing. I have always found you to be a very good writer and fair. Too bad the knee-jerks haven’t been reading any of your other stuff.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Reta: People shoot from the lip. But what irritates me is their making accusations about things that weren’t in the article, or accusing me of, say, talking only with lawyers (not true) or saying that I’m taking my own bad experiences out on the industry (also not true — I haven’t had any bad experiences).
      People see what they want to see or, worse, read just the headline and the first couple of sentences and think they’ve read the entire piece. Sigh.

  6. My sympathies, Donna. It’s a kind of Internet bullying and it doesn’t exactly help the adjusters’ cause when they indulge in behavior like that.

  7. ImJuniperNow

    Wow – I’m glad my insurance agent is a friend and I have a key to his family’s house. I’m sure this will help me if I ever have an accident. (wink wink)

    The only time I ever had damage to a car was when a co-worker’s car mysteriously rolled into mine in our parking lot and scraped some paint off. He was so grateful I didn’t file a claim I got a year’s worth of cat toys out of it.

    Now, that’s what I call a fine settlement.

  8. We were involved in an accident earlier this summer and the insurance company is definitely giving us the run around. I have had insurance companies settle claims fairly and efficiently in the past so I know they aren’t all bad.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Andy: Oh, they’re definitely not all bad. When a relative’s house was made uninhabitable by fire, she was put up in a very nice residence hotel for almost three weeks while repairs were being made. And when I had a few other minor fender-benders (Alaska, ice, whoops), the other guys’ insurance companies made things right without a murmur.
      Just as in any other profession, it’s the bad apples who ruin it for everyone.
      And I enjoyed meeting you at FinCon11. Hope we see each other again at FinCon12.

  9. teinegurl

    I’ve read both articles and i can honestly say im learning more and more from donna each day! i love it!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Teinegurl: Thank you. Please keep educating yourself so you’ll know your rights as a consumer.

  10. We recently had roof damage during the same storm that flattened much of Joplin, Mo. Not wanting to even open a claim if I was not going to need repairs well in excess of our deductible, I had two separate roofing companies come out, both highly recommended. Both told me that I would need a new roof. Only then did I open a claim with my agent.

    Due to the high volume of claims from the storm that damaged our home, our insurance company had to hire outside adjusters on a contract basis, which is pretty normal. The one that came to our house gave an extraordinarily low estimate, and the claims representative at corporate closed the case before I even got the estimate in the mail. To say that I was angered was an understatement. I went to my own agent’s office, explained that I was not happy with her service. She listened to me, re-opened our claim, and made an appointment for a senior adjuster that works directly with the company to come out. His estimate was that we DID need a new roof. He was apologetic about the extra time and hassle, then he explained to me that some adjusters will go to extraordinary lengths in order to keep a claim under the deductible, because if they consistently give estimates that cost the insurance company money, the company will stop using them. Then they starve.

    Since I got this info from an adjuster, I tend to credit it with some gravitas.

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