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'll 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, which must address the amount you need to cover your damages. You'll need to attach documentation supporting your request for that amount. Examples of documentation you'll want to attach are medical bills and any documents detailing other related out-of-pocket expenses.
Upon receiving the letter, the insurance company will assign your demand to a claims adjustor. An adjuster's 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. You just need to 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. In the exclusion section of the policy, you'll find mention of what the policy does not cover. So, before you begin the process, you'll want to 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. Do not share it with the insurance company. Remember that a claims adjuster will never give you more than you ask for. You'll want to 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 the insurance company for justification of the offer. Have the insurance company provide you a written response highlighting their points and bases for their coverage decision, along with any evidence they have to support that decision. 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. An adjuster typically has 30 days to investigate your claim. 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 agreement from the insurance provider and a check. If you have any questions about the terms stated in this agreement, 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. An experienced car accident attorney in your area can help you with the settlement process, and any other claims you may have.