After a car accident, you likely never imagined you’d end up negotiating with insurance companies. Dealing with car repairs, health care bills, lost wages from missed work – it’s enough to handle without taking on an insurance adjuster. Their job is to minimize costs for the insurance company, not make you whole. Don’t worry. With some key tips under your belt, you can go into those talks well prepared to get fairly compensated. This post shares insider techniques your average claimant may not know to empower you in those critical insurance negotiations.
What Insurance Adjusters Do
Insurance adjusters play a big role in determining what accident victims recover. They investigate accidents for the company to figure out fault and assess resulting damages. Based on their review, they make a settlement offer representing what they believe sufficiently covers the policyholder’s losses. Unfortunately, their primary goal tends to be reducing payouts, not making the policyholder whole. Understanding that conflict of interest equips negotiators to better advocate for themselves.
Tips to Negotiate Fairly:
Hire an Attorney
Having a qualified personal injury attorney in your corner can prove invaluable, especially if debts and damages pile up. Their expertise allows them to determine full compensation values and anticipate tactics adjusters may use to lowball offers. Unlike insurance reps, injury lawyers work solely to maximize the client’s financial recovery. Attorneys also handle all communication, documentation demands, and negotiations so claimants can focus entirely on treatment and recovery.
In complex cases with severe injuries, disputed liability, large losses, or uncooperative insurers, hiring counsel becomes essential. Experienced car accident lawyers have successfully handled countless similar cases, giving them leverage at the bargaining table injury victims simply don’t have. And most personal injury attorneys work on contingency, collecting fees only if they secure compensation for the client. That means their interests align with the claimant’s – they don’t get paid unless the policyholder gets paid.
Know Your Policy
Understanding coverages and limits outlined in your auto insurance policy helps tremendously in negotiating decent settlements. Most policies have several components that come into play after accidents:
Medical Payments Coverage: This covers medical treatment costs from injuries sustained in the accident. Amounts range widely but typically fall between $5,000 and $100,000. That provision alone rarely proves sufficient for serious injuries involving hospitalization, surgery, physical therapy, at-home nursing care, wheelchairs, and other needs.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Required in some states, this covers costs when an at-fault driver lacks sufficient insurance to pay for your losses. The coverage taps into the policyholder’s own plan. This matters when an accident with a poorly insured motorist results in major bills.
Collision/Comprehensive Coverage: Collision covers repair or replacement costs for damage to your vehicle when you collide with another car or object. Comprehensive addresses damage from other events – vandalism, natural disaster, fire, theft, animal collision. Both come with deductibles you must pay out of pocket before coverage kicks in.
Having a handle on these provisions prepares claimants to assess initial settlement offers and determine how to respond. An unreasonably low opening number signals the victim will need to push back firmly for a fair resolution.
Insurers require exhaustive documentation to back up any demands. Meticulously logging key details as they happen prevents forgetting or scrambling later. Critical items include:
Medical Treatment Records: Maintaining complete files of visits, imaging scans, surgeries, medications, devices, therapies undergone and prescribed bills proves essential. Update logs after each appointment. Have doctors document extensively the accident’s role in prompting care and impact on health and function.
Lost Wage Records: Keep written verification of missed hours from any work with detailed pay stubs and attendance logs. Get documentation from employers specifying the accident as the reason for absenteeism.
Receipts and Invoices: Retain any receipts for out-of-pocket costs tied to the incident – prescriptions, medical equipment, taxis to appointments, help with household tasks, property repair/replacement.
Photographic Evidence: Take ample photos and video documenting damage to all vehicles and property plus injuries sustained. Photograph the accident scene from all angles as soon after the crash as possible.
Communications Log: Maintain a detailed timeline recording every exchange with insurance reps and any witness statements. Note names, dates, contact method, discussion summary and any follow-up promised.
Such rigorous evidence gathering sounds exhausting for accident victims already coping with disruption and pain. But skipping this step severely hinders resolving insurance claims fairly or speedily.
Get Multiple Repair Estimates
Insurers frequently try to minimize covering vehicle repairs. Shops on the company payroll often downplay damage extent to limit payouts. Having multiple independent auto body shops assess wreckage provides objective repair cost estimates the claimant can leverage if the insurer attempts an unjustifiably low initial number. Review estimates line-by-line with the adjuster noting each validated issue needing address.
Pursuing rightful compensation differs greatly from trying to raid the corporate coffers. Understandably, high emotions accompany accidents’ financial stress. But ask only for verifiable losses directly stemming from the incident. Document how much missed work the recovery has caused based on payroll records not via some randomly inflated number. Seek reimbursement for proven out-of-pocket accident costs – not preexisting debt or expenses unrelated to the collision. Inflated or unsupported claims quickly erode credibility and goodwill.
View the adjuster’s first offer as merely a starting point for negotiations rather than a final binding resolution. Expect some back-and-forth hashing out gaps between what medical data, auto repair invoices, lost wage docs substantiate versus what the insurer wants to pay. Don’t fear firmly calling out lowball amounts not supported by furnished evidence. Also highlight non-monetary losses – diminished life enjoyment from permanent injury limitations. Applying such bargaining tips prevents leaving substantial money on the table by accepting an insufficient initial number just to quickly settle the matter.
When Legal Counsel Makes Sense
While certainly not requisite for minor fender benders with minimal disputed damages, hiring an attorney proves paramount for major injury cases. Specifically, representation pays dividends if the accident involves:
Catastrophic Injury: Severe harm with extensive, ongoing medical treatment and lengthy rehabilitation likely requires legal help assessing total current and future costs then fighting for full adequate compensation.
Large Damages: Major property loss, surgical procedures, long hospitalizations, sizable missed wages together can equal damages exceeding most people’s ability to personally quantify and recover without counsel.
Uncooperative Insurer: Some claims adjusters employ notoriously stubborn hardball tactics pressuring claimants into accepting bare minimum payouts. Failure to retain aggressive lawyers in those situations significantly shortchanges case value.
Complex Liability Questions: Occasionally fault determination and division across parties grows complicated, especially with multiple vehicles and controverted accounts. Seasoned attorneys sort out the morass.
While hiring a lawyer does reduce settlement amounts by fees, in many cases counsel more than makes up for that by winning vastly larger payouts through savvy negotiation than victims could obtain on their own.
Don’t ever expect amicable conciliatory talks when negotiating car accident claim payouts. Insurance wants to minimize expenses. Approaching discussions informed and empowered levels the playing field protecting your rights and financial health. Before accepting any offer, ensure it aligns reasonably with the complete evidence furnished. If you feel steamrolled or undercompensated, contact a personal injury law firm. Counsel with expertise taking on insurers can assess case particulars to craft and execute strategy leading to fullest legitimate compensation in your unique situation. Don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation.