Most car accident injury cases settle before ever reaching court and, helpfully, the process for negotiating a settlement is relative straightforward.
Of course, negotiation is an art, not a science, and most accident victims would benefit from the help of an experienced attorney.
Below, we outline the steps for how to negotiate a settlement with an insurance claims adjuster.
Step One: File a Claim with the Insurance Company
After being injured, you should have obtained insurance information from the person at fault for injuring you. As soon as possible, contact the insurance company and file a claim. Most companies will let you file over the phone or by completing an online form. You should reach out to them within 24 hours, ideally. By filing the claim, you start the negotiation process.
Step Two: Receive Your Reservation of Rights Letter
After you file your claim, you should receive something called a “reservation of rights” letter from the insurer. This letter states that the insurer plans to investigate the claim and talk to you about it. However, the letter makes sure that you understand that the insurance company is not accepting liability simply by beginning the investigation.
If you don’t understand the letter, contact an experienced Yakima personal injury attorney to discuss.
Step Three: Send a Demand Letter to the Insurer
Once you understand how much your claim is worth, you will draft and send a demand letter to the insurance company. Typically, accident victims wait until they are fully recovered before completing this step. You want to fully account for the amount of money they spent to treat their injuries. If you don’t wait, then you really don’t know what the final bill will come to for medical expenses, lost income, and other economic losses.
Your demand letter should also include a request for compensation for the pain and suffering you suffered. Generally, our clients request between 1.5 and 5 their economic losses in pain and suffering or general damages. Each case is different, so meet with a lawyer if you are confused about how much to request.
The demand letter will include important information, such as:
- The date, time, and location of the accident
- How the accident unfolded
- Information about your injuries
- A summary of your economic losses (special damages)
- A request for compensation, i.e., how much you are willing to settle your claim for
Step Four: Read the Insurance Claims Adjuster’s Letter
The adjuster should respond to your letter with one of their own. You should expect the adjuster to reject your offer and argue that your claim is worth much less than you think. The adjuster might also make a counteroffer.
Do not be surprised if the counter offer is low. Many are very low, and some of our clients are shocked at how little the insurance company wants to pay them. Remember, making a low offer is simply strategy on the part of the insurance company.
Many adjusters realize that injured victims need compensation because they have bills due. The insurance adjusters are hoping you are so desperate that you will accept the small amount that is offered. Remember not to get focused on the low number and don’t let it “anchor” the negotiations.
Step Five: Reject the Adjuster’s Offer and Make Your Own
You can write another letter rejecting the adjuster’s offer. Explain why. For example, provide more detail about your pain and suffering or emotional distress.
You can help spur the adjuster to accept your offer by coming down a little from your initial offer—but not by too much. And never use the offer made by the adjuster as the starting point for the negotiations. It was probably so low you should ignore it.
Step Six: Continue Your Negotiations with the Insurance Adjuster
Negotiation is a back and forth process. Much like negotiating a car sale, each side moves incrementally up or down from their previous offer. Ideally, each side will eventually arrive at a number they both can live with. If you do, the adjuster will probably draft a settlement agreement, which you must read carefully before signing.
If negotiations break down, you need to move to the next step—consider filing a lawsuit in court so you receive full compensation for your injuries.
Speak with an Experienced Yakima Personal Injury Attorney
An adequate settlement should put you back economically where you would have been had the accident never occurred. It should also provide adequate compensation for intangible injuries like pain and emotional distress. Dealing with insurance adjuster is never easy, but this guide hopefully provided information for how to secure a favorable settlement.
If you need help, reach out to us today. One of the Yakima personal injury lawyers at Kapuza Lighty will gladly meet with you to discuss your case.