When you file a personal injury claim after a car accident, you will likely receive a lowball offer following your claim and demand for compensation. Do not take this offer personally or feel that your claim is not worth much money – insurance providers operate for profit, so their goal is to get claimants to accept the lowest settlements possible in order to maximize their profits.
This does not mean that you are stuck with whatever settlement offer the at-fault driver’s insurer offers you. You can and should challenge the offer you receive with the aid of an experienced personal injury lawyer. During your initial conversation with your personal injury lawyer, discuss strategies for securing an appropriate settlement amount for your damages. You will face a lowball offer and you could faced attempts at devaluing your claim, coercion to accept an offer, and stalling.
Arm yourself with knowledge of how the personal injury claim process works, sufficient evidence to support your claim, and an experienced personal injury lawyer to give yourself the best possible chance of securing an appropriate settlement amount for your damages.
Do Not Accept Any Offer without Discussing it with your Lawyer
Even if an insurance provider’s settlement seems fair for your damages, do not accept it without first discussing it with your lawyer. In fact, do not make any statements to the insurance provider or interact with them at all without first going over the conversation with your lawyer. Why? Because once you agree to a settlement offer or make a statement about your accident, that acceptance or statement is recorded and can be used later to justify giving you a lower settlement amount than you deserve.
Know How Insurance Adjusters Work
The first settlement offer you receive will almost always be lower than the amount of money you need to cover your damages. It is also lower than the amount of money you can secure through your personal injury claim. The initial offer a claimant receives is generally the lowest amount of money the insurance provider thinks he or she will accept. Another figure, known as the adjuster’s “authority,” is the maximum amount he or she is permitted to offer for your claim. You may be told that this is the maximum amount he or she can offer or that the adjustor has provided all of his or her settlement authority. All this means is that you have to keep fighting if you believe you are entitled to more.
Have Sufficient Evidence to Support your Rejection
Your claim is only as strong as the evidence you have to support it. In a personal injury claim, evidence used to support a demand for compensation can include:
- Medical bills;
- Pay stubs;
- Eyewitness accounts of the accident;
- Photographs of the accident;
- Testimonies from expert witnesses;
- Medical documentation such as x-rays, doctors’ commentaries, and observations from witnesses;
- Documentation showing time at work missed;
- Bills for auxiliary medical expenses like a mobility aid, over-the-counter medication, and bandages; and
- Itemized lists of other injury-related expenses, such as the need for psychological counseling after an injury, the need for in-home domestic help, or hired transportation.
Have this evidence ready to discuss with your insurance adjuster. Make copies of all important pieces of evidence to submit alongside your initial claim and your counter letter. Remember, if it is not in writing it is hard to prove.
Avoid Stalling the Process
The longer your claim takes to resolve, the greater profit the company makes on your money. This is because every day it is in possession of claimants’ settlement money, it earns interest on that money. Remain in frequent contact with your claims adjuster to encourage him or her to quickly make a settlement offer. If you receive a verbal offer, request it in writing. For reasons discussed on this site, you do not want to delay in making a claim and possibly filing suit.
The Counter Letter
The counter letter is the document that you send to the insurance company rejecting its initial offer and outlining your reasons for the rejection. This is where your adjuster’s written offer enters the equation – by seeing how he or she arrived at the initial settlement figure, you and your lawyer can break down the expenses of your case to negotiate a higher settlement amount.
In your letter, discuss each of your specific damages and underscore that the company’s client’s negligence was what directly caused you to suffer your damages. Point to the pieces of evidence you submit alongside your claim to illustrate the extent of each expense. State your interest in avoiding litigation to settle the claim but your willingness to do so if it becomes necessary. Going to court is an expensive, exhausting process for all parties involved.
Your letter should also include a demand for a settlement amount slightly lower than your claim’s initial demand. This is to show that you are willing to compromise, which ultimately, is what your settlement is all about. The figure you quote in your letter is your counteroffer. The company may be willing to settle at or near this figure, or it might reject the counteroffer. In this latter scenario, you and your lawyer will need to determine whether you can resolve the case through a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or if you will need to file a lawsuit.