Knowing how to negotiate with an insurance claims adjuster isn’t a life skill most people need on a daily basis. But when you’re suddenly faced with the task, you realize how important—and frustrating—it can be.
Below, we offer experience-based tips on how to successfully negotiate a settlement with an insurance company. If you’re going into the process for the first time, however, keep in mind that you are dealing with experts trained in negotiation tactics. Insurance claims adjusters can be ruthless, and they aren’t always honest.
If you were seriously injured in a personal injury accident, becoming a skilled negotiator overnight might be the last thing on your to-do list. That’s why many people turn to the trusted advocacy of a personal injury law firm like DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC. We use our experience to make sure our clients are never taken advantage of by the aggressive negotiators representing the big insurance companies.
After learning more about how to negotiate a settlement with an insurance claims adjuster, call us with any questions about your personal injury matter. We provide no-cost case evaluations to clients in West Virginia.
What Is the Role of an Insurance Claims Adjuster?
Before you even start a conversation with an insurance adjuster, it’s important to be familiar with their position and job duties.
An insurance adjuster is someone hired by the insurance company to investigate claims. The result of the investigation will determine if the company is liable for paying out damages and, if so, how much should be paid out in compensation to the injured party.
Investigations typically involve phone calls to interview involved parties and witnesses, reviews of documents like accident reports, and evaluations of bodily injuries and property damage. These actions are similar to the type of investigative efforts lawyers often make on behalf of injured clients.
But while an attorney works on behalf of the injury victim, the insurance company works on behalf of itself. Insurance claims adjusters are trained in ways to reduce compensation and deny liability. When an adjuster conducts an investigation, their goal isn’t to look for the truth—it’s to look for ways to save the company money.
Tips for Negotiating With an Insurance Claims Adjuster
The most important rule for negotiating with a claims adjuster is to be prepared. Never go into the process unrehearsed, hoping that everything will work out on its own. This allows the insurance company to shape the negotiations, dictate the terms, and tell you what a fair settlement is. And an insurance company always acts in its own best interests, not yours.
Being unprepared will never result in the outcome you hope for, or legally deserve. Instead, try to follow these steps to maximize your chances at a fair settlement. If you hit a wall at any point in the process, remember that it’s never too late to reach out for help. It’s always better to get the professional opinion of an attorney before you say “yes” to a number you’ll later regret.
Come well-prepared with supporting evidence.
Records and documentation are critical components of the process. If you don’t have strong evidence to back up your claim, you don’t have much of a leg to stand on when it comes down to negotiations.
Before beginning negotiations, compile your records in an organized manner, making copies of all documents relevant to your claim, such as:
- Medical bills
- Auto repair bills or estimates
- Quotes for any other property damage
- The police report of the accident
- Rental car receipts
- Eyewitness statements
- Photos or video of the accident scene, property damage, and injuries
- Pay stubs or contracts showing your salary or wage amount
Calculate a full settlement amount.
Using the evidence you’ve gathered, personal experience, and other data, figure out what you are legally owed. This should include all pertinent past, current, and future economic and noneconomic damages.
If you’re not sure what a fair settlement looks like in your case, speak with a lawyer.
A reasonable settlement offer will typically cover medical bills, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering and other noneconomic losses, and any incidental costs related to the accident (such as cost of transportation or domestic services).
Know your bottom line.
Keep a number in mind that fully reflects what you deserve. Don’t let yourself be talked into anything less. This isn’t a number you need to share with the insurance claims adjuster—it’s a stability mechanism for you to make sure you aren’t swayed into agreeing to an offer that doesn’t meet your needs. If you agree to a settlement that is lower than what you need to fully recover, you may be coping with the consequences of that decision for years to come.
Beware of the first offer.
Offering a far-too-low settlement is a common insurance company negotiation tactic. This trick tests your awareness of your rights and aims to tempt accident victims with a quick way to pay off their bills. Never accept the first settlement offer, and always ask for justification if an offer seems unreasonable. Contact a lawyer if the company continues to offer you less than you deserve.
Get the settlement offer in writing.
An unethical insurance claims adjuster may say one thing on the phone—but deny it later. If you and the adjuster are able to reach a fair settlement through negotiations, get that number in writing. Don’t agree to sign anything until you see the offer you’ve agreed to on paper.
Read the fine print.
Be careful about what you put your name on. Insurance companies can be devious about the clauses they include in authorization forms.
For example, a seemingly straightforward authorization form may include language that gives the insurance company unlimited access to your medical records. They can then use a past medical condition unrelated to your accident to try to prove that your injury was preexisting and ineligible for compensation.
Don’t let yourself be tricked out of a just settlement by the small print. If you’re not sure what you’re signing, don’t sign it. An experienced lawyer can help you review any documents the insurance carrier sends you.
Can You Negotiate an Insurance Settlement by Yourself?
When the stakes are low, and the company is willing to work with you, you may feel comfortable negotiating a settlement by yourself. But when the outcome of negotiations will make a big difference in your future, you may want to consider bringing in help to be certain you get fair treatment.
It’s best to partner with a lawyer if:
- You have catastrophic injuries
- Your accident left you with a permanent disability
- Your injuries will not have healed or reached maximum medical improvement by the time your case is settled
- The accident resulted in one or more fatalities
- Your injuries will prevent you from returning to work
- Your injuries will require you to look for a new form of employment
- Your injuries require the use of medical devices or home/vehicle modifications
Additionally, there are some types of personal injury cases that should always be handled by a team of legal representatives.
Dealing with auto insurance adjusters after a motor vehicle crash or a homeowners insurance company after a premises liability accident is difficult enough. But these types of insurance claims are generally more routine than ones involving corporate (rather than private individual) policyholders. In situations in which you’re negotiating with the insurance company of a hospital, manufacturing company, government entity, trucking company, or other large corporation, it is strongly advised that you retain legal counsel.
Enlist the Help of a Team of Skilled Negotiators
At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, our team has nearly two centuries of combined experience negotiating settlements with insurance claims adjusters.
Let us evaluate your case for free and advise you of your legal rights and options. Call today for a courtesy case consultation with a personal injury attorney who can answer all your questions.