Best Personal Injury Settlement Strategy | Nolo
If you file a personal injury claim after any type of accident, at some point it will probably be time to negotiate with the other party’s insurance company. (Note: Even if you have taken the extra step of filing a personal injury claim, please be aware that settlement negotiations will continue and your case could go to settlement at any time.)
If you or your personal injury attorney have presented the insurance company with an organized demand letter and the appropriate supporting documents, the negotiation process may consist of nothing more than a few phone calls with an insurance claims adjuster. insurance. But the big picture usually looks like this: Whether through written correspondence or more informally, you (or your attorney) and the insurance adjuster will make your points about the strengths and weaknesses of your claim. The adjuster will then make an offer to settle your claim for less than the amount you requested in your demand letter. You will respond with a figure higher than the adjuster’s offer but lower than your original figure. usually after two or three phone calls, you’ll agree on a settlement figure somewhere in between.
Let’s look at how to best position your claim for success.
have a settlement amount in mind
As part of writing your demand letter, you should have determined how much you think your claim is worth. (Learn how insurers value a personal injury claim.) Within that range, and before you talk to an adjuster about your claim, decide on a minimum settlement figure you’ll accept. this figure is for your own information, so you can take into account your bottom line when under the pressures of trading, but it is not something you should reveal to the adjuster.
However, you don’t have to stick to the number you’ve set for yourself. If an adjuster points out some facts that you hadn’t considered but that clearly weaken your claim, you may need to lower your figure a bit. And, if the adjuster starts with an offer at or near your minimum, you may want to revise your figure higher.
letter of reservation of rights
If you receive a “reserve of rights” letter from the insurance company, don’t be alarmed or intimidated. This letter informs you that the company is investigating your claim, but reserves the right not to pay you anything if it turns out that the accident is not covered by the policy. the letter simply protects the insurance company by preventing you from claiming that the company’s insurance policy covers your accident just because it entered into settlement negotiations with you.
don’t jump to the first offer
When the insurance adjuster makes your first offer, it may be so low that it’s just a ploy to see if you know what you’re doing (see below). or, it may be a reasonable offer, too low. If the offer is reasonable, you can immediately make a counter offer that is slightly lower than the amount in your demand letter. this shows the adjuster that you are also being reasonable and willing to compromise. A little more negotiation will quickly get you to a final settlement amount you both feel is fair.
have the adjuster justify a low offer
If an adjuster makes such a low first offer that it’s obviously just a negotiation ploy to see if you know the real value of your claim, don’t immediately reduce the amount you put in your demand letter. instead, ask the adjuster to give you specific reasons why the offer is so low, and make notes of what they tell you. then write a brief letter responding to each of the factors the adjuster has mentioned. (See a sample response to an unreasonably low settlement offer.)
Depending on the strength of any of the adjuster’s reasons, you may be able to reduce your demand slightly, but wait to see if the adjuster will move after receiving your response before you reduce the amount too much.
The next time you talk to the adjuster, start by asking for a response to your response letter. The adjuster must now make you a reasonable offer on which you can negotiate and arrive at a fair settlement figure. Remember, most personal injury cases settle at some point, it’s just a matter of when.
emphasize emotional points
In these negotiations, don’t bother going over all the facts again. only emphasize the strongest points in your favor, for example, that the insured was entirely at fault for the accident, that you had a very painful injury, that your medical costs were reasonable, and/or that you had long-term or permanent physical problems. effects.
However, it may be helpful to mention any emotional points that support your claim. If, for example, you’ve sent the adjuster a particularly strong photo of a wrecked car or serious-looking injury, refer to it. If your injury interfered with your ability to care for your child, mention what your child suffered as a result. While there is no way to put a dollar value on emotional distress and “pain and suffering,” these components of an injured person’s losses (“damages”) can go a long way toward getting an insurance company to come to the table with a fair settlement offer.
put the agreement in writing
When you and the insurance adjuster finally reach an agreement, immediately confirm the terms in a letter to the adjuster. This letter can be short and sweet, stating how much you settled for, what injuries or damages the settlement covers, and the date you expect to receive settlement documents from the insurance company.
learn more about how to settle your personal injury claim
For more details on how to negotiate an insurance claim, including sample letters to insurance companies, tips for handling negotiations, and strategies for dealing with an insurance company that refuses to make a fair offer, see how win your personal injury claim, al jose l. matthew (nolo).