Negotiating a Settlement: Part 2
When it comes to advice on settlements, don’t listen to an insurance adjuster. The main point of concern for an insurance adjuster is not how much your claim is actually worth, but how much you are willing to accept. Many adjusters will take steps to offer you conservative settlement amounts, or attempt to convince you that you can’t get a settlement, even with the knowledge that your claim may be worth more money. It’s up to you to navigate this territory to make sure you’re not receiving an unfair settlement.
What to Consider Before Building Your Case
Just as no two accidents occur in the same way, no two claims are identical. As such, there’s no one-size-fits-all method for handling a claim from start to finish, and you’ll need to know what to expect in advance so you can prepare your case to fit your circumstances. The route you take to get to a final settlement might go through an insurance adjuster, mediation, arbitration, legal action, or an out-of-court settlement facilitated by a lawyer. Depending on your policy, your state’s laws, and other factors, you might have numerous options from which to choose. Below is an overview of some of the technical aspects involved in reaching a final settlement for your claim.
Some state laws prohibit customers from recovering general damage settlements from their own insurers. If you are unable to recover such settlements from your insurer, you would have to negotiate with the other driver’s insurer or take legal action against the at-fault driver. For any legal matters whatsoever, or if you’re unsure of your options or rights, consult with an attorney. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations, no upfront fees, and only require payment when they win a settlement on your behalf.
Mediation and Arbitration
If you are pursuing a pain and suffering settlement from your own insurer, depending on the laws and regulations in your state, you may have additional options for settling your claim. Hiring an independent mediator or arbitrator may save you the hassle of the negotiation process, and may result in a faster settlement process than other methods. You still have to gather the pertinent evidence to back up your claim and present the facts, but a professional arbitrator or mediator will examine both your arguments and the insurer’s arguments and come up with a middle ground for the settlement.
This option is often used after negotiations have been attempted and failed, but depending on your insurance policy you may only have the option of pursuing a lawsuit if you can’t come to an agreement. Ask your insurer or the other driver’s insurer if mediation or arbitration are options, but check to find out if any such processes will be binding or final. If you decide to go the mediation route, be sure that any mediators or umpires are accredited professionals.
Extent of Your Losses
If your injuries took more than a couple weeks to heal, if you missed work, lost sleep, weren’t able to perform daily chores or enjoy pastimes, or if your medical treatment racked up more than $1,000 in medical bills, you should consult with an attorney to help you with your claim. Additionally, if your “small claim” is being denied by the insurance company, consult with an attorney to see if they can take it on and win a settlement, or if it’s not worth pursuing further. Don’t wait too long or begin negotiations with an insurer until you’ve spoken with an attorney. It’s never too soon to get a free consultation.
What Your Time Is Worth
For many busy professionals, they may not have time to manage and navigate an insurance claim on top of the rest of their hectic lives. If you don’t trust yourself to follow through on everything, but still feel you are owed a settlement for your suffering, consult with an attorney to find out if they can take care of the footwork while you simply go to the doctor and focus on recovery.
Be sure that you know what your rights are before moving forward, either by consulting an attorney or reading up on your state’s laws and regulations, or checking through your insurance policy. For basic questions about policy limits, what types of coverage you have, or what the insurance company is paying, your insurance adjuster is a great resource – but they shouldn’t be used for advice or guidance on how to settle your claim, since they have an opposing financial interest in the outcome of the claim. As always, independent professionals such as attorneys or doctors should be your most trusted sources of advice.
Once you’ve identified some of the options you have for seeking a settlement, you can begin to prepare your case so you get the best possible outcome. Whether or not you decide to hire an attorney, there are numerous steps to take and strategies to implement to prepare your case for the best settlement possible. To learn more about these tips, check out the next section in our Negotiation Guide.