Strategies and Final Negotiations – How to Negotiate a Settlement after a Car Accident

UPDATED: Jun 17, 2022Fact Checked

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Insurance Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

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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Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 17, 2022

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Negotiating a Settlement: Part 4

Working out a fair settlement for an insurance claim with your insurance claims adjusters is similar to working out any other negotiation: you first need to lay the proper groundwork, and then “play your cards” right in order to reach your desired outcome. A claims adjuster does not necessarily have your best interest in mind. If you don’t prepare your case well, you’ll create hurdles for yourself later, and if you don’t take the right steps at the right times, you could preemptively block yourself from certain opportunities to reach a good settlement.

Can you handle your type of claim on your own?

For those interested in handling their accident claims process on their own, just like closing a real estate deal, doing your taxes, or investing in your finances, there are certain aspects you can handle yourself. But, just as in those other fields, it’s best to leave the “heavy lifting” of larger deals, bigger settlements, serious injuries, and complex negotiations to a professional, namely a personal injury attorney. Most personal injury attorneys will take on relatively minor accident claims, too, so don’t just assume that your personal injury claim is too “small” to warrant legal help or at least a free consultation with a licensed attorney.

If your injuries heal completely within a couple of weeks, and you don’t miss work or lose much sleep due to the pain, your case could be considered a “small claim,” and you should be able to negotiate a settlement agreement with the insurance adjuster on your own.

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What should you do when handling a claim with your insurance provider?

Some tips:

  • Keep all communication, negotiations, and agreements in writing, by email, fax, or mail. Phone conversations during the claims process are not only stressful, they give the insurance claims adjuster the upper hand, because you might give away too much information or get confused during a long phone argument. To keep it simple, just keep everything in writing.
  • Make sure you recover fully! Don’t skip treatments and take care of your health. Get treated for any injuries and emotional distress affecting your health resulting from the accident, and just make sure your doctor takes adequate notes to explain why the treatment is needed due to the accident.
  • After you’ve fully recovered, request copies of all medical bills and receipts from your doctors. It may take a few weeks after you’ve recovered for the final invoices to be generated, so be patient.
  • Draft a demand letter to the auto insurance company adjuster. Explain your demands and back them up with photos, evidence, receipts, and details about the severity of the accident, the medical treatment, and your pain and suffering.
  • For a successful negotiation, start high, negotiate down. Adjusters are expert negotiators, so if you want $1,000 to cover the types of damages you have, start with a $2,000 settlement demand and give up some ground to reach your desired number. Generally speaking, start at roughly double your desired number to cover medical and vehicle damages and negotiate down from there to a favorable settlement.
  • Don’t tell them your bottom line, ever. Instead, just ask the adjuster to make you a counteroffer.
  • Don’t give away all your information, evidence, reasoning, or justifications all at once. Try to keep an “ace in the hole” to seal the deal on a final negotiation.
  • Don’t agree to anything until you have it in writing.
  • Never accept a settlement in the same conversation as the offer is made. Be sure to give yourself a day to consider it, talk with friends and family about it, and consult with experts and a personal injury lawyer before accepting a settlement for anything.
  • Keep in mind that their first offer will often be somewhat less than they can actually pay and that with some smart presentation of facts, negotiation tactics, or by hiring an accident lawyer, you will likely be able to increase their offer.

Through all of this, remain aware of your time limits and constraints. If you’re negotiating towards a settlement only a few months after the date of the accident, there’s no need to rush the negotiation process.

How does the insurance decide to offer a settlement?

An insurance claims adjuster will divide damages into two categories: physical damages, such as medical bills and property damage, and emotional damage, such as pain and suffering. The first offer may be a percentage of what they think is the final value. Insurers do this to pay out as little as possible.

What is an Insurance Claims Adjuster?

A claims adjuster is someone who works for the insurance company to determine liability.

The insurance adjuster‘s job is to investigate damages resulting from accidents to people and property. Based on what they find during their investigation, they will then determine the extent of the insurance company‘s liability.

In a personal injury case, an adjuster will investigate the claim and determine if and to what extent the claimant’s injuries are eligible for insurance coverage (whether by your policy or by the at-fault party‘s policy).

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When should you consult a licensed attorney?

If you’re approaching a year from the date of the accident, consult an experienced attorney to make sure you’re not missing an important one-year deadline regarding your case. But if you’re well within such constraints, remember to take a deep breath, find some activity to let out your stress or nervous energy, and relax. If your adjuster is pressuring you to finalize a deal, it’s best to take a day or two and sleep on it.

Most importantly, do what you can to save money in the meantime, so you don’t force yourself into a financial corner where you’re compelled to accept a settlement simply because you need the money. By keeping these simple tips in mind and following the steps in this guide, you should be able to negotiate the claim settlement process on your own.

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