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12 words never to say to your insurance company

When you file a claim with your insurance company for a car accident or home damage, think before you speak. Saying the wrong words during that first phone call can turn what should be a quick, painless settlement into a prolonged nightmare.

Insurance adjusters zero in on certain "trigger" words that indicate you might not have a legitimate claim -- or don't know what you're talking about.

Here's your strategy: Don't say any more than necessary. Talking too much only gives you more chance to say something counterproductive.

"Just tell your agent exactly what happened," suggests President Bob Hartwig of the Insurance Information Institute (III), which represents the property-casualty industry.

Avoid these 12 words, which are often used by "over-talkers" and can hinder even the most legitimate claim.

1. Sorry

You may say "I'm sorry" out of habit or embarrassment after a car crash, but hold your tongue at the scene of an accident. There's no need to admit fault or assign blame - let a police officer determine fault. You don't want your words to cause confusion about your role in an accident, especially if you weren't at fault.

2. Whiplash

Say "whiplash" and the insurance adjuster will probably speed-dial the in-house counsel. Whiplash claims are the bane of insurance companies, which are on constant alert against bogus medical claims. Don't self-diagnose your injuries from an accident. If you suspect trauma, see a doctor and get the medical report. After a car accident, never speak to the other party's insurer before you speak to your own.

3. Intentional

Insurance will cover bad luck and bad judgment, like driving too fast on ice and crashing, but it won't cover intentional acts. If your wife took a bat to your car hood during an argument, or you broke your car window in order to get your keys, get ready to pay for damage yourself.

4. Customized

Your souped-up car might be your pride and joy, but auto insurers are not interested in covering drivers who are careening around in modified vehicles trying to look cool.

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