Dealing With An Insurance Adjuster

Insurance Claim Form
Credit: hvostik/
We talked about this message I got from a DFW listener on the show last Saturday:

I had an '08 Acura RL with 160000 miles totaled in December. Fortunately, no one was hurt and we weren't at fault. By using your recommended method I was able to get the insurance company to up their offer from $2600 to $5800 by pointing out comparable cars for sale in my area. Thanks! Tom

He got the info from our FAQ page, which is why I stress going there so much. Every painstaking article I wrote had one purpose behind it, and that is to help our listeners and subscribers.

Here is the article in its entirety. I solicited help from people in the auto insurance business, including insurance adjusters, just to make sure I had the facts correct.

How To Deal With An Insurance Adjuster

If your vehicle is totaled by wreck or flood damage, or stolen and not recovered, you are going to be forced to deal with an insurance claims adjuster. Sometimes it is your own insurance company, and other times it will be the insurance company that the other party uses.

Either way, the adjuster has two goals in mind: to get the claim settled and off his or her desk, and to settle the claim as cheaply as possible. According to one adjuster I spoke with, you can get promoted quickly by settling automobile claims at under market value.

I speak to a lot of radio listeners who truly think they have no choice but to accept the offer an insurance company makes, and often they present it that way, subtly. They may call and say “we have evaluated your totaled out vehicle and prepared a check for $10,000” or whatever they come up with. Many people just say OK, and accept that it is fair. This is a mistake. You can pretty much count on the first offer being low.

As soon as you know there is a chance of your vehicle being totaled, start to do your homework, so when that settlement call comes, you immediately know if it is low or acceptable, it is after all your money, and the reason you pay insurance premiums.

I had a listener a few years ago who had a late model ¾ ton truck that was totaled. I looked over the insurance offer that he deemed “OK” and told him it was way low. In this case, the adjuster missed that the truck was a diesel engine, and the claim amount jumped by $5000.

Remember too, in most states the insurance company is required to pay replacement value, not wholesale or book value, or auction prices, but the amount you would have to pay if you go into the open market and find the closest vehicle to the one that was wrecked.

For me, the easiest way is to determine replacement value is to go to From there, set the criteria to same year vehicles within 300 miles of your zip code. Then choose the engine size, vehicle mileage, you can even narrow it down to features like leather interior, DVD player, and navigation system. Print out or make yourself a spreadsheet with prices on vehicles very similar to yours, except color. The comparable vehicles you find do not need to be exact matches, just close.

This is an important step to take because the adjuster is going to do virtually the same thing. They present you with comparable cars, then take an average. If their settlement offer is low, just saying “I won’t accept that” is not going to work. Let him or her know you have your own set of comparable vehicles you’d be happy to supply. If you’ve done your search properly, the numbers don’t lie and will support the dollar amount you are asking for.

Over the years, I have known many insurance adjusters, and they are by and large good people, but they have stressful jobs. Just remember, they want to settle your claim so they can move on to the next one, but they also have to satisfy their claims supervisor. They often walk a fine line and my heart goes out to the adjusters in the Houston area, their stress level must be at an all-time high.

If you have done your homework as outlined above, and can make your case for the amount of money you arrived at, be prepared to ask for the claims supervisor, the adjuster will not care, they are used to that.

One last note…if you have spent money on the vehicle that got flooded, stolen, or totaled out, supply the insurance company with receipts. New tires, recent mechanical repairs, aftermarket items, etc. will allow the insurance company to add additional money to the amount they are offering you and can often close the deal.
Related Articles
A Teen’s First Car Is a Lesson in Life
We spent a good amount of time on the Car Pro Show last weekend talking about Teen Driver Safety Week. It can be a life changer for the parents as well as the child. For most parents, your child’s i... More ›
The Basics Of The Check Engine Light
We’ve all had our check engine light come on and likely wondered what it means and just how quickly it should be attended to. Check engine lights can mean different things and should never be ignored.... More ›
Car Pro Advice: Getting Your Car Ready for Winter
Covid-19 has changed much about our lives. For instance, people are shying away from Uber and Lyft. Airline flights are way down. People are driving more on road trips because they know the environ... More ›
2020 Tax Code 179 For Business Owners & The Self-Employed
It’s that time of year: Below is our annual guide to Tax Code Section 179 for self-employed and business owners who buy a vehicle.

Tax Code 179Tax Code 179, the special deduction to write of... More ›
There haven't been any comments left on this blog yet. Be the first to add one!.