Tips for Negotiating with Insurance Companies
Few things are more stressful than the experience of being involved in a car crash, especially one that causes significant damage to the vehicle. The additional stress of a personal injury only adds to an already fraught situation. If you have sustained any severe injury resulting from a car crash, we highly recommend seeking medical treatment as soon as possible and speaking with a qualified Dallas personal injury attorney about your options.
Depending on your situation, you may find yourself wondering how to maximize your settlement with the insurance company. While severe injury accidents are best served by a professional legal team, the vast majority of car crashes do not involve the legal system. If you’re wondering how to negotiate a settlement with an insurance company – and whether you even have any leeway to negotiate – you’re not alone. It IS possible to come to a reasonable settlement amount. You do NOT have to accept the first offer.
Tips for negotiating in the event of a vehicle loss.
- Don’t accept the first offer. The job of ANY insurance company is to pay out as little as possible. Insurance companies lose money when they have to pay out, whether for repairs, personal injury or the total loss of a vehicle. Insurance companies will often low ball their initial offer. This is especially true of “discount” insurance companies, but the big guys aren’t innocent of this tactic either.
- Know what your car is worth. If you’ve kept sales records from the purchase of your vehicle or service records that indicate its worth or illustrate how well it has been maintained, it may help you illustrate the car’s value. Gather your records and any photos you have of your car. Then go online and take a look at a car information sites such as NADAGuides.com or Edmunds.com to create an appraisal for your specific vehicle. Next, take a look at used cars online to assess the market. In the event of a total loss, the insurance company has a duty to provide compensation for the fault or negligence of their insured client. Be sure to search for vehicles that are similar to yours in terms of options and features. If your car has a rare package of options that makes it difficult to find, note this information. Based on your research, have a MINIMUM amount in mind to guide you in your conversation. If the insurance company meets your minimum with their first offer, do some additional research to determine whether you should increase your acceptable minimum benchmark.
- Ask the adjuster to justify their offer in writing. The insurance company should be able to provide a written report that includes a justification of their settlement offer. This will usually include a description of their assessed condition of the car. This is also a place where you may be able to justify an increase in the settlement. If your car is in impeccable condition and has always been garage kept, the insurance company’s settlement offer should reflect that. If it doesn’t, refer to your own records to request that they increase their settlement amount. You do not have to accept their first offer. Negotiate until you arrive at a settlement amount that is fair to all. You don’t need to exact the last pound of flesh, but neither does the insurance company.
Tips for negotiating in the event of an injury.
- Keep accurate records. When you’ve been in a crash, especially an injury-causing crash, documentation matters from the beginning. A good place to start is our car crash guide, which we recommend downloading and placing in your glove compartment. Organize your documents, photos, police report and any information you have for witnesses before speaking with an insurance company, if possible. Keep careful records of any medical treatment you have and any car repairs. Get a binder or notebook and make notes of treatment dates, procedures and records of physician visits, bills for repairs, etc. Also make note of the time you are unable to work if your injuries prevent you from going to work. This will help you recoup lost income.
- Determine fair compensation. Once you’ve calculated the cost of your accident (because you’ve been keeping careful records), you can use this information to help you calculate a fair settlement. It’s in the insurance company’s interests to settle with you in a timely manner for a fair settlement amount. No one wants to go to litigation. If tackling negotiation on your own, we recommend not taking the insurance company’s first offer. Use the same tactic mentioned above of explaining the costs you’ve incurred to present your case to the insurance company.
- Present your demand letter. The records you’ve accumulated will help you present evidence to the insurance company. Your demand letter should include a description of what happened and an overview of the impact the crash has had on your life, your ability to work, your injuries and your property. It is perfectly reasonable to request compensation for pain and suffering in your letter. Assess your situation and determine what you think would be fair for compensation based on the cost of your medical treatment, vehicle replacement, loss of income and pain and suffering. Be prepared to ask for more than what you actually want knowing that the insurance company will likely respond with an offer lower than your request.
Whether you’ve suffered an injury or just sustained property damage, negotiating with an insurance company is not impossible on your own. That said, the average person may feel intimidated handling a personal injury case independently. Insurance companies handle thousands of cases every month. The average person may handle one every few years. It's a complicated process. Our boutique law firm in Dallas has the staff and expertise to take on complex cases and help you recoup the amount you deserve in the event of an injury. When you’ve been hurt, it helps to have peace of mind knowing that your interests are being professionally represented. Have questions? Call us for a free case consultation, and we will help you determine whether your case warrants hiring professional representation. It’s almost never too late to get the legal help you need.