Negotiating a personal injury case is a lot like haggling for the best price at a flea market; the seller has an asking price, but everyone knows that it’s flexible. After some back and forth, a fair price is reached, and everyone walks away happy.
While everyone may not walk away from the negotiating table happy in a personal injury case, hopefully, it’s the insurance adjustor leaving less than pleased. Knowing the ins and outs of negotiations in a personal injury case can help you receive full compensation.
Starting the Negotiations Process
Most negotiations in personal injury claims start with a settlement offer. Don’t be surprised if the insurance adjuster shows up in your hospital room. Sometimes, the insurance companies even beat the police to the scene. The adjuster will ask you a few questions about the incident and your injuries, followed up by a settlement offer. The offer may have a tantalizing number of zeros, but you are not legally required to accept the offer.
Most personal injury attorneys recommend turning down the first offer. Remember, insurance companies are trying to limit the amount of the payout, and the first offer may not be enough to cover all expenses.
If you turn down the initial offer, the next step is usually sending a demand letter. Your attorney will take care of writing and sending the demand letter that includes the following information.
- A thorough description of the case, including the facts leading up to your accident/injuries
- A review of all applicable laws holding the defendant at fault for your injuries
- A complete description of your injuries and property damage (if any occurred) caused by the defendant’s actions or behavior
- The amount of your proposed claim – that should be significantly higher than the amount you are willing to settle for
- All applicable copies of your medical file and proof of any property damage as a direct result of the incident/accident
After sending the demand letter, the insurance adjuster will submit a response. The response will typically include a counter-settlement offer. You should expect the offer by the insurance company to be lower than the amount you are asking for. You can accept the offer or turn it down.
However, if you choose to accept the offer, you cannot file additional claims against the defendant or their insurance company. Think of the proposed settlement as a one-time, covers everything offered.
You should also expect the insurance company to poke holes in your claim. Some may be a fishing expedition. In other words, the insurance adjustor is trying to rattle you into accepting their offer. Some of the adjuster’s claims may also be based on fact. You can acknowledge this and resubmit a counteroffer.
In most personal injury cases, negotiations will go back and forth several times. Hopefully, you will reach an agreement that satisfies both parties. If an agreement is not reached, your case will go to trial.
The Rights of the Insurance Adjuster
In personal injury negotiations, the defendant’s insurance adjusters have certain rights. These rights include asking questions and disputing facts. Some of the questions you should be prepared to answer include:
- Whether the insurance company covers the accident
- Are both parties at least partially responsible for the accident and the injuries you sustained?
- Will your injuries have a long-lasting, negative effect on your quality of life? For example, are the injuries permanent?
The extent and type of medical treatment you are requesting financial coverage for. The adjuster may also inquire about any pre-existing conditions that may contribute to the extent of your injuries.
These are only examples of common questions adjustors ask during personal injury negotiations. Be ready to answer all questions thoroughly and honestly. Lying to the insurance adjuster can result in your case being dismissed. You may also face legal ramifications that can include jail time and hefty fines.
Tips For Successful Personal Injury Negotiations
Even though your personal injury attorney is handling most of the work associated with your claim, how you approach the process can also affect its outcome. Here are a few tips on how to make your negotiations move along quickly and smoothly.
Organize Your Paperwork
The adjuster will probably ask for documentation proving your claim. Have all of your paperwork organized and ready to send when required. You also want to take notes during the question stage of the negotiations. This way, you don’t miss a deadline or forget to send a document.
Have A Lot of Patience
The only time you are promptly issued a check is when you accept the insurance company’s offer; otherwise, be prepared for a long wait. Some personal injury cases can take months to resolve, and becoming impatient or frustrated doesn’t help your case—instead, it can actually set back the process even further.
Don’t Give Up After Declining the First Settlement Offer
Sometimes, insurance companies will sit on your claim in hopes you’ll give up and accept their offer. Don’t give up here and instead keep pressuring the insurance adjuster to make a counteroffer or accept your requested amount. Set reasonable deadlines for the adjuster to submit paperwork or return with another offer. Don’t be afraid to call every few days, as being persistent often pays off.
Stay Calm During Negotiations
Staying calm throughout the negotiation process often isn’t easy. However, remember insurance adjusters typically are working on more than one case at a time. Patience and staying calm can go a long way toward resolving the case in your favor.
Even if you end up with an inconsiderate adjuster, remaining cool and collected will ultimately help your case. If nothing else, your calm demeanor will show you have faith in the strength of your case. Sometimes, this is enough to reach an agreeable settlement.
Never Enter Into Negotiations Alone
Negotiating with an insurance adjuster can be a complicated and lengthy process. To ensure your rights are protected, working with an experienced personal injury attorney is always the best option.
After all, they understand the broader legal process and will help ensure you receive everything your case deserves.