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Swimming With Sharks: Dealing with Insurance Companies, Adjusters and Defense Attorneys

I battle insurance companies, adjusters, and defense attorneys on a daily basis. I battle them to fight for justice for my clients, injured victims in accidents caused by someone else.

After spending years battling insurance companies and their hired defenders, I learned that they have a playbook that is remarkably similar across all insurance companies, and the many different adjusters and attorneys. The playbook can be boiled down to 3 words:

Delay. Deny. Defend.

In order to maximize profits, insurance companies will gladly take your insurance premiums every single month. But when it comes time to file a claim they will

  1. Delay processing of your claim. Delay payment of your claim.
  2. Deny your claim.
  3. Defend against your lawsuit.

Most adjusters and defense attorneys are not bad people. Some are, but most are not. But they have a directive they must carry out. So it leads them to do some very unsavory things. Like delay, deny, and defend.

So I came across an article written by Voltaire Cousteau, an author who died in Paris, back in 1812. He wrote, "HOW TO SWIM WITH SHARKS: A PRIMER" It was written with sponge divers in mind. Sponge diving is the oldest form of known underwater diving (in order to retrieve sponges).

The author begins his forward by writing,

Actually, nobody wants to swim with sharks. It is not an acknowledged sport and it is neither enjoyable nor exhilarating

I will say, while tussling with insurance companies is neither enjoyable or exhilarating, fighting for and obtaining justice for my clients is quite enjoyable. It's why I get up in the morning and drive to work. It's all we ever do here at Severe Accidents.

The author continues to say:

Finally, swimming with sharks is like any other skill: It cannot be learned from books alone; the novice must practice in order to develop the skill. The following rules simply set forth the fundamental principles which, if followed will make it possible to survive while becoming expert through practice.

I will agree with the author here. I have summarized his instructions below, but reading these instructions doesn't give a novice competence, or turn them into an expert. But it's a quick, fun read, so here we go.

How to Swim With Insurance Companies, Adjusters, and Defense Attorneys

1. Assume unidentified fish are sharks. Not all sharks look like sharks, and some fish which are not sharks sometimes act like sharks.

This is sage advice. The insurance adjusters are going to be really nice, and courteous to you. They are hiding the fact that they are a shark. They'll tell you that they are there for you, that they are going to take care of you, and your medical bills, and that you guys can solve this together, without needing to get an attorney involved. If that were true, then the countless personal injury attorneys have no reason to exist.

It's not true. Their own studies have shown the faster they can get a claim settled, the less they will pay. And if they can settle a claim without an attorney, their windfall is even bigger.

2. Do not bleed. It is a cardinal principle that if you are injured either by accident or by intent you must not bleed. Experience shows that bleeding prompts an even more aggressive attack.

Well, it's kind of hard not to bleed when you are bit. But when it comes to your car accident claim, do not bleed. Don't show any weakness in your case or a willingness to settle quickly. If they find out you do not have an appetite for a long litigation process, then any offer by them will be lower.

From day 1, they have to believe you are willing to take your case all the way through trial. Doing anything less will let them know they can lower their settlement offer to you.

3. Counter any aggression promptly. Sharks rarely attack a swimmer without warning. Usually there is some tentative exploratory action. The appropriate counter move is a sharp blow to the nose.

When I was just starting out in personal injury and car accident law, I wasn't so aggressive, for fear of overstepping in an industry new to me. Those days are long gone. Now I am as aggressive as I can be, without violating any rules or ethics guidelines. I don't let them have whatever information they ask for.

I control the flow of information from our side. They are on a need to know basis. Sure they complain, but that's all it is, a complaint. I know the justice system is waiting for me no matter what tricks or games the insurance companies want to play.

4. Get out if someone else is bleeding. If another swimmer has been injured and is bleeding get out of the water promptly.

Now, this one doesn't apply directly to personal injury cases except perhaps when you have a weakness in your case. Not every case is perfect. Most have warts. Some cases have more warts than others. And those warts are bigger. But if you have a weakness in your case, and the other side finds it, move on. Acknowledge the wart, but focus on the strengths of your case and move on from the weakness.

That'll tell the insurance company their "coup de grace" isn't as strong as they thought it would be.

5. Use anticipatory retaliation.

Attack before being attacked. This can only come with experience. You must anticipate their moves and take counter measures before they're needed.

6. Disorganized and organized attacks.

Everyone on the other side is well trained and acting in concert to delay, deny, or defend your claim. Most ordinary people are not experienced nor have the requisite training to battle these adjusters.

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Get it right from the beginning by contacting Jonathan M. Feigenbaum, Esq., a Boston Massachusetts ERISA attorney, at (617) 681-7815 or toll free (866) 816-3171.

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