D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from Seve...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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Negotiating a Settlement: Part 2

When it comes to advice on settlements, don’t listen to an insurance adjuster. They work for the insurance company, and their job is to evaluate your claim for the insurance company. Why does this matter? You’ve been paying your insurance premiums.  This is literally what you’ve been paying for. Why would they give you a difficult time?

While many insurance adjusters may want to help, they have to rely on the information they get from mechanics. They’re also given certain valuation methods for the replacement cost of your car from their employer (the insurance company). Those valuations don’t always match up with sites like Kelley Blue Book. In short, their tools might undervalue your car, thereby reducing the claim you’re eligible to make.

What Should You 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.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as explaining your side to the adjuster. If it’s a total loss, you can show them your valuation from a trusted source. You also have the right to consult a mechanic you trust regarding the necessary repairs. If you can make a good case, your adjuster may be willing to increase your settlement payment. What if this doesn’t work or your insurance company refuses your claim altogether?

Below is an overview of some of the technical aspects involved in reaching a final settlement for your claim.

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State Laws

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 advice whatsoever, or if you’re unsure of your options or rights, consult with an attorney. Even if it seems like something you could handle yourself, it could be more complicated than you realize. Experienced attorneys may offer free consultations, no upfront fees, and only require payment when they win a settlement on your behalf for personal injury cases.

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. It may also 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. 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.

What Is The 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. It’s easy to see the impact on your life if you’re in a hospital bed. If you talk to an attorney, you may find that there’s a wide range of injuries that can be addressed through a suit.

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.

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What Is Your Time 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.