HOW TO NEGOTIATE AN INJURY SETTLEMENT WITH AN INSURANCE CLAIMS ADJUSTER
This is fantastic — it means you are taking action to keep the at-fault party accountable for their negligence. Indeed, it means you're ready to demand the compensation you deserve for your suffering and losses.
If you are determined to seek fair compensation for your losses, you must be prepared to negotiate with the insurance company (or, more specifically, the claims adjuster) to get what you want.
As a professional personal injury attorney, I have helped countless clients negotiated with insurance claims adjusters to win the compensation they deserve. And in this article, I'll share 5 steps to take to begin the settlement negotiation process. I'll also explain what you need to be aware of during the negotiation process if you decide to speak to an adjuster by yourself.
Remember, the more effective you are in how you negotiate a settlement with an insurance claims adjuster, the higher the settlement offer you're likely to make out with.
What is an Insurance Claims Adjuster?
A claims adjuster is someone who works for the insurance company to determine liability.
The insurance adjuster's job is to investigate damages resulting from accidents to people and property. Based on what they find during their investigation, they will then determine the extent of the insurance company's liability.
In a personal injury case, an adjuster will investigate the claim and determine if — and to what extent — the claimant's injuries are eligible for insurance coverage (whether by your policy or by the at-fault party's policy).
If the insurance adjuster does find coverage for your accident, an investigation phase will begin to evaluate the extent of this coverage.
The investigation phase may include:
Interviews with witnesses
An inspection of injuries or property damage
Review of medical records and accident reports, and any other relevant materials.
Once the adjuster has finished investigating a claim, they will draft a damage report detailing the total financial losses related to your accident. The information in this report will be used to initiate the claim settlement process.
Begin the Settlement Negotiation Process (5 Steps)
Now that you understand what a claims adjuster's role is, let's discuss how to begin the settlement negotiation process.
The process starts by filing your claim.
Step 1: File An Insurance Claim
No matter the circumstances of your accident, the first step in negotiating an insurance settlement is to determine where to file the insurance claim.
If you were involved in a car accident, there are a few ways you might choose to file.
Keep in mind, according to the Louisiana Department of Insurance, driving without insurance can result in penalties. And if you are in an auto accident without insurance, even if the other driver was at-fault, you may be prohibited from collecting certain amounts of compensation.
If you live in a no-fault state, it doesn't matter who caused the accident — you always file a claim with your own insurance company.
If you live in an at-fault state like Louisiana, the injured party is responsible for filing a claim against the at-fault party's insurance company.
Or, if you've been injured in a slip and fall accident, then you'd typically file an insurance claim with the business property's insurance company.
Remember, even though filing a claim is a necessary step in the process, and you do need the adjuster's help, the insurance company is not on your side. It's your responsibility to keep organized and negotiate as effectively as you can.
Step 2: Consolidate Your Records
After you file your claim, the next step is to organize your records.
To defend yourself when negotiating with an adjuster, you'll want to have an organized record of all files and documents related to your accident.
This is important because you will rely on these documents as evidence during negotiations. Having the totality of evidence available at your fingertips, in chronological order, is how you will build your case — and win.
Examples of relevant evidence may include:
Police reports or accident reports
Property damage quotes
Photographs of injuries or vehicle damage
Car repair estimates
As a rule of thumb, any materials that can be used for validation purposes in your injury settlement should be kept in your files.
The more evidence you can use to defend your position, the greater the chance of a satisfactory resolution in your insurance settlement.
Step 3: Calculate Your Minimum Settlement Amount
Once you've filed your claim and organized your records, it's time for you to calculate what your claim is truly worth (as best as you can, anyway).
You can estimate the value of your claim by reviewing your records and considering the financial implications of:
Expenses related to the accident and injury
Pain and suffering
In this step, you are going over everything that could possibly have a monetary value attached to it. If it cost you money directly or impacted your ability to earn income, add it to your calculations.
Once you've made an estimate, you'll need to send a demand letter to the insurance company demanding fair compensation.
A Demand Letter is a formal letter that outlines all of the damages you incurred from your accident. The objective with your demand letter is to make a case for the compensation you're entitled to. Make sure to include as many details as you can about the accident.
In detail, outline injuries, medical treatment you received, and any other losses such as pain and suffering or emotional distress resulting from your accident.
While you're waiting to receive a settlement offer from the insurance adjuster, come up with a minimum settlement amount in mind.
This number isn't meant to be shared.
Instead, keep this figure in mind as you begin negotiating with the adjuster — it is the number you should refuse to go any lower than.
Step 4: Reject the Claims Adjuster's First Settlement Offer
In most cases, the adjuster will come back at you with a low ball settlement offer following your demand letter.
This is a normal, if frustrating, part of the claims process.
Don't be surprised if their first offer seems almost absurdly low. Oftentimes adjusters will employ this as a tactic to test your negotiation ability and see whether you know the worth of your claim at all.
Your claim may have been perfectly reasonable, but remember: adjusters work for the insurance company. It is in the adjuster's interest to limit the extent of their company's liability and use your lack of legal knowledge to pay you less.
If they can sniff out a vulnerability or exploit your lack of knowledge, they will attempt to do so.
My advice is to meet their rejection letter with a counteroffer. In a follow-up letter, you can press the adjuster for more details about their valuation and explain your reasoning for rejecting their initial offer.
Let's be clear; once you reject their first offer, the negotiations begin. Now it is time to defend your demand for fair compensation using all the evidence at your disposal.
Step 5: Emphasize The Strongest Points in Your Favor
The goal of your negotiation efforts is to reach an agreement with the insurance company and get it in writing.
To do that, you want to be both reasonable and fair, while also emphasizing the severity of the accident and your injuries.
You want to get the best possible outcome without dragging negotiations on for an eternity.
To do that — to reach the optimal outcome and settlement value — focus on the strongest points in your favor. Leave uncertainties and impertinent facts out of the discussion.
For example, if you were involved in a car accident, then be sure to reiterate repeatedly how the other driver was at-fault.
Emphasize the pain and suffering from your injury.
List off the costs of all the medical bills you had to pay to treat your injury.
State any long-term physical effects that could likely result from your accident.
When you emphasize the strongest points in your favor, one after another, and back them up with records, evidence, or research, you stand a better chance to defend your position.
You also show the adjuster that you are a capable negotiator, one not to be taken advantage of with low offers.
What To Expect During the Negotiation Process
So far we've covered the first 5 steps to take when preparing to negotiate an injury settlement.
Now let's discuss a few general, but no less critical, considerations to keep in mind when dealing with insurance claims adjusters.
First, Time is of The Essence
As soon as your accident happens, the clock starts ticking.
In one sense, there is a literal amount of time in which you must take action to push for a fair settlement (the statute of limitations in Louisiana is just one year).
On the other hand, the negotiations themselves can take time.
There are many steps (at least 5 as you've already learned) to keep track of during the process and even more records and documents you'll accumulate along the way.
My best advice is to begin the process as soon as the accident has occurred, and you've sought medical treatment. Make sure to consolidate your records-as-evidence early in the process to make sure all details are accounted for.
The more clarity you have of the entire accident, the better.
To leverage time as an ally, add a deadline to your demand letter specifying the date that the adjuster has to accept your offer. This simple act will show them you mean business and will not tolerate them "running out the clock." They won't even try.
Second, Be Careful What You Tell The Adjuster
Yes, what you say CAN hurt you.
Make no mistake; your claim adjuster is looking for every opportunity to use what you say against you. Adjusters are looking for ways to diminish your injury claim and save the insurance company some money at your expense.
It is always important to be honest about your circumstances. But to ensure you don't say something you'll regret, refrain from admitting any fault if you can.
Instead, remember to emphasize the severity of the accident and the painful injuries you've sustained.
The adjuster is looking for ways to assign blame or downplay the severity of your accident and injuries — don't let them.
Third, The adjuster Doesn't Want You To Hire an Attorney
One of the biggest pieces of leverage a claims adjuster has is knowledge.
An insurance company employee understands the law in ways you likely do not. The adjuster will use your gap in knowledge in attempts to swindle you with a bottom-of-the-barrel settlement amount. This is their game. Unfortunately, it is one you must play to receive the compensation you deserve for your losses.
Like an interrogation scene from a detective drama, the adjuster is an expert at knowing what to say and do to get you to say the wrong thing. As long as the insurance company is dealing with you by yourself, they have the upper hand.
Fortunately, you need not negotiate alone. An experienced personal injury attorney is all it takes to shift the power back into your corner and fight for your rights with confidence. When you have an attorney who knows all the rules, you can take advantage of that knowledge to win the game.
A personal injury attorney will deal with insurance companies on your behalf, knowing all the loopholes and tactics they use to avoid having to pay you money.
What's more, an experienced attorney with years of experience can negotiate for you and reach a more favorable dollar value for your settlement claim.
Get Your FREE Consultation with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Negotiating a settlement agreement takes real patience and persistence. And if a deal can't be reached, it may be time to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit. Contact Bruscato Law today for legal advice on how to effectively negotiate your settlement — and win.
Whether you're considering filing a claim or you've already begun the process, please don't hesitate to schedule a free consultation with Bruscato Law Firm. As an experienced personal injury lawyer, I am fortunate to act as a legal resource to clients throughout Monroe and the surrounding areas.