When you have been injured due to the negligence of another, all the while piling up medical bills and unable to work, it may be tempting to accept any settlement offer from an insurance company. Before you do that, you need to remember that, no matter how nice and concerned the insurance adjuster may seem, the adjuster works for the insurance company, not for you.
Factors to Consider When Negotiating with Your Insurer
Insurance companies do not make their money off premiums paid by their insureds, but by the amount of money they can save when paying claims. That means that the adjuster’s initial offer is almost never the maximum the company is willing to pay in order to settle your claim without going to trial. The first offer really means it is time to negotiate. There are some important factors to keep in mind before and during the negotiation process.
- Evaluate what your claim is worth. You need to have an accurate figure for your medical expenses, both current and future, lost wages, both current and future, and your pain and suffering. If relevant, factor in any job retraining that might be required as a result of your injury, physical rehabilitation and any other long-term treatment that might not be readily apparent.
- Determine a minimum you are willing to accept. After you know what your case is worth, you can determine a minimum amount you are willing to take. Do not share this number with the adjuster until much later in the process.
- Know that the adjuster almost always has more money available you than the initial offer. Before making an offer, adjusters generally have read the accident and police reports, looked at photographs and reviewed your medical records. They have a low amount to offer you that they hope you will accept. They have a higher amount they already know they may offer if you do not accept the first one.
- Get everything in writing. An adjuster may call you and make an offer over the phone. Ask him or her to provide you the offer in writing. Also, make certain that the written offer includes reasons why the insurer offered the specific amount.
In addition to the information the adjuster has already reviewed, it helps to provide the adjuster, in writing, details and descriptions of the impact of the accident on your life and how things have changed. Will you suffer from a long-term disability? Be unable to participate in athletic activities you used to enjoy? Change jobs? Give up travel?
If the adjuster asks for more documentation of your losses, provide it. Instead of just sending copies of medical bills, provide specific information on what the charges are for. If there are medical records that can accompany the statements, that can also be helpful.
Get Your Final Agreement in Writing
If your negotiations are successful and you accept an offer, be certain to get the final agreement in writing. The written document should include the amount settled for and what injuries and damages are encompassed in the final settlement.
If you have negotiated this settlement yourself, you may still want to consult with an attorney before you sign the final agreement. Settlement agreements often have clauses saying that the settlement represents a complete and final agreement for all the injuries you suffered in the accident. This means that if later, you have any complications from the injury, like your broken arm did not heal right and you need surgery, you may have signed away all your rights to any future compensation.
It May be Time to Seek the Help of a Personal Injury Attorney
Negotiating with insurance companies is not easy. Especially when you consider that the adjuster’s job is negotiating. Adjusters have a mission to save their company money. If all you need is money to fix a small dent in your car, and have suffered no physical injuries, go ahead and do it on your own.
If you have had any physical injury at all, or extensive property damage, you owe it to yourself to get professional legal help. Our Georgia Trial Attorneys at Kirchen & Grant, LLC, have a track record of success at negotiating the best settlement possible for our clients.
If negotiations break down and going to trial is the best option, we are experienced advocates who will aggressively present your case to the court. We know how to evaluate your case to be sure you receive the maximum amount of compensation to which you are legally entitled. Contact us for a free consultation.