It is a lesser known fact that the majority of personal injury lawsuits actually involve working with an insurance company instead of a private individual, service company or hospital. A person injured in a car accident for example, will file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, but it is the car insurance companies that will actually provide payout for the claim and handle most of the lawsuit negotiations. This is true of most other kinds of lawsuits, including slip-and-fall injuries on company property and medical malpractice claims. This means that most people involved in these lawsuits will have to deal with the insurance company sooner rather than later, and it can pay to be prepared for the resulting negotiation.
Why is Negotiation Needed?
Simply put, insurance companies want to get away with paying as little as possible. Most lawsuits never go to court or receive any kind of court-ordered judgement for an amount. Instead, the claim is settled outside of court and involves primarily direct interaction with the insurance company that will be paying the bill. If the insurance company can convince the other party to take a reduced settlement offer, then they win.
The Letter of Demands
The process should always start with a letter of demands. This details the various monetary damages the person has suffered due to the accident and what they expect to be paid. A good letter of demands will explain succinctly and with good reasoning why the amounts are what they are. While a person can certainly write their own letter of demands, this is one job that is usually handled by a personal injury lawyer.
Calls with an Adjuster
It is very unlikely that an insurance company will simply agree to the amount stated in the letter of demands and settle outright. The person should be prepared to talk with a claims adjuster. This person is responsible for reviewing the claim and determining its real value. A more shadowy aspect of their job is to attempt to convince the other party to take a lower settlement offer.
One can expect the adjuster to provide a very low first offer of settlement that is almost never worth taking. Preparation helps a great deal here. The person should already know the full value of their claim in detail as well as the lowest offer they are willing to accept. From there, the negotiation looks a lot like haggling over the price of a trinket at a flea market. The person will counter the adjuster’s offer with one slightly below their original asking amount stated in the letter of demands.
This process of offer and counter-offer will probably go back and forth a few times before a middle ground is reached that both the person and the adjuster will accept. Most adjusters know full well that they are unlikely to get what they offer the first or even the second time, but it is their corporate obligation to try.
Ask for Justification
If an adjuster provides a first offer far below a person’s expectations, it can be a good idea to ask for them for justification of the offer. While it is not common, an adjuster will sometimes present an exceptionally low offer just to see if they can get away with it. Forcing them to explain will often make further negotiation easier.
Emphasize Emotional Facts
Keep in mind that insurance adjusters are human, too. While they have fairly strict guidelines the insurance company expects them to adhere to, that doesn’t mean they wont to be moved by some of the more emotional elements of a loss or injury. While gushing emotion often becomes unproductive and may seem faked, talking about real hardships, like how the injury affected children or sick family members, may turn negotiations in a person’s favor.
Consult with an Attorney
While almost all parts of this process can be handled directly, it can be beneficial to consult with an attorney. The attorney may be able to handle the entire negotiation process and get a bigger settlement. Even if the attorney’s full services aren’t required, they may be able to advise on a fair settlement amount and guide a client to getting this amount when they deal with the insurance company.