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How to Negotiate a Car Accident Settlement

A car accident is over in a matter of seconds. But the road to recovering money for damage to your vehicle, bodily injury, or both can be a long and frustrating journey. With a little preparation and patience, you will find that you can successfully negotiate your car accident settlement.

The first step in the negotiation process is writing a demand letter to the insurance company, explaining the amount needed to cover your damages. Upon receiving the letter, the insurance company will assign your demand to a claims adjustor. An adjuster is a highly skilled negotiator whose primary goal is to settle car accident claims quickly while paying you as little as possible.

The negotiation process is not much different than haggling over an item at a yard sale. Each party has a minimum and maximum price in mind. You may go back-and-forth with offers and counteroffers several times until an agreement is reached. You don’t need to be a fast talker to settle your car accident claim, just follow these simple steps to learn how to negotiate a car accident settlement.

1. Know What the Car Insurance Policy Says

There’s no point in negotiating for something the insurance policy does not cover. Before you begin the process, read the insurance policy declaration page to learn what is covered and the payment limits.

2. Have a Number in Mind

There are basic types of damages a person injured in a car accident can recover, such as medical expenses and property damage. After you have added up all the bills, receipts, and losses you suffered because of the accident, establish a minimum and maximum payment range that works for you. This is your personal number, not to be shared with the insurance company. Remember that a claims adjuster will never give you more than you ask for, so aim high.

3. Don’t Be Upset by the First Offer

There’s no point in negotiating for something the insurance policy does not cover. Before you begin the process, read the insurance policy declaration page to learn what is covered and the payment limits.

If the initial offer is reasonable, give a written counteroffer that is below the amount in your original demand letter. This shows that you are negotiating in good faith.

What if a first offer is very low? It may just be a negotiating tactic. Ask for justification of the offer and provide a written response highlighting the points raised along with evidence to support of your claims. It’s important to honestly consider the adjuster’s comments, but do not immediately decrease your demand when presented with a low offer.

4. Be Patient but Persistent

Negotiating a car accident settlement can take several months. It can feel like a lifetime if you are waiting for repairs to be made to your car or have medical bills piling up. It’s important to stay calm during the process and keep your interactions professional. It can be maddening if an adjuster hints that you are not actually injured. This could be a negotiation tactic, so don’t let your emotions get the better of you.

Although the settlement process can be lengthy, your claim should be handled in a timely manner. Keep a calendar of your interactions with the insurance company. If you have not heard anything for a few weeks, contact them to see where they are in the settlement process. Let them know you are being patient but expect results. Claims can be reassigned or even misplaced so it is important to keep track of your claim.

5. Accepting an Offer

It’s your decision whether to accept or reject a settlement offer. Factors to keep in mind include:

  • How far apart the offer and the demand are
  • How much more you are likely to receive in court
  • The expense of taking your claim to court
  • The additional time and uncertainty of a court resolution

Once you reach an agreement, detail the terms in a letter and send it to your claims adjuster using registered mail, return receipt requested (RRR). This provides an important legal record. Within a few weeks, you should receive a release of liability letter from the insurance provider and a check. If you have any questions about the terms stated in this letter, ask before you deposit the check or return the form.

Get Professional Legal Help Negotiating a Car Accident Settlement

Your negotiation with the claims adjuster is the most important part of obtaining a fair settlement for your accident damages, so it can make a difference to have an experienced negotiator on your side. After all, insurance underwriters are highly trained negotiators. An experienced car accident attorney in your area can help you with the settlement process, and any other claims you may have.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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