Insurance companies are first and foremost commercial businesses. They thrive by turning a profit, just as any other business does. To that end, it’s important to understand that they aren’t on your side and aren’t likely to make it easy for you to maximize the amount of your settlement check.
Some prefer to attempt negotiations on their own, while others hire a personal injury attorney to handle the negotiations for them. Whatever you choose, here are some helpful tips to avoid being exploited by the insurance company.
Remain Calm and Pleasant When Dealing With the Insurance Adjuster
The insurance adjusters are human beings doing a job. You aren’t likely to get very far with them if you are rude and unprofessional. While your accident may have caused you to suffer a great deal, removing yourself from the equation as much as possible is beneficial so that you don’t react with emotion.
It can be incredibly frustrating when they seem so nice and sympathetic yet offer you a settlement far beneath the damages you incurred but try your best to remain calm. Let them know you will think about it and get back to them.
Be sure to get the business address, phone number, insurance company name, adjuster’s name, and email address where you can reach them.
Remember That the First Offer Is Not the Best Offer
If you walk away with the first insurance settlement offer the adjuster makes, you are doing yourself a disservice and sacrificing a significant amount of money. This is the first thing you should know about working to increase a personal injury settlement.
There is no obligation to accept the insurance company’s first offer. Nothing is final unless it is put into writing and you have signed the offer. You are allowed to negotiate and if you want to maximize the amount of settlement dollars you are paid, negotiation is a necessary step.
Gather the Right Evidence to Validate Your Claim
Collecting the right evidence is key to substantiating a personal injury claim. If you cannot prove that you were injured or that the other party was liable, you will not have the grounds for a case.
When you are gathering your proof, it’s important to consider the various costs you are facing. Your suffering needs to be addressed and when the cost of your damages is negotiable, good evidence is paramount.
You might collect important evidence such as:
- Cell phone pictures, video, traffic camera footage, or a sim card that shows the accident scene
- Receipts from paid medical bills, prescriptions, mobility device costs, or other related expenses
- Unpaid medical bills, medical imaging scans, treatment plans from the doctor
- A police report from the accident
- Emails, letters, and any other written communication between you and the other party involved
- Estimates for property damage to your vehicle or personal belongings
- Eye witness accounts or video footage from security cameras, other devices
Since each case has its own set of variables, this list is just an example. There are other forms of evidence you can collect that may be submissible and applicable to your case. If you cannot physically collect these items yourself due to your injuries, you can enlist a friend or the help of a lawyer.
Even if you are able to gather this information on your own, an attorney can help to expedite the process and may have an easier time accessing some items you need. Having quality evidence can be an important factor that will allow you to increase your personal injury settlement.
Evaluate Your Damages Accurately
The important thing about a thorough accounting of your damages is that you consider the future costs. It’s important to anticipate future costs of medical treatment, the loss of wages due to future medical appointments, or complications from your injuries that you may face.
At this stage of your claim, an attorney would assess the value of your claim by reviewing all the bills, medical information, and income documents such as pay stubs. They can consider lost opportunities at work, lost potential commissions, and a variety of other factors.
After accounting for these costs, they may consult with economists and medical professionals that can more accurately pinpoint the damages you will face in the future. After that, research into other cases with similar circumstances will be reviewed to provide your lawyer with a solid basis of comparison to calculate the value of your claim.
Some damages you may consider include:
- Medical expenses
- Cost of future care
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Future loss of income
- Your lost wages
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of benefits or retirement
Think Beyond the Present
While you may not know the full extent of damages you face, it can be helpful to think about the future and address some questions. If your quality of life has decreased because of an accident you didn’t cause, you should not be forced to bear the financial burden. Maximizing your personal injury settlement can help you to avoid future financial setbacks.
Here are some questions you might consider:
- If my injuries or health become further complicated, what do I need to think about?
- Will I be unable to work?
- Has my career been affected?
- Did I lose a promotion, raise, or another advancement?
- How has my daily life been affected by the accident?
- What did my life look like before the incident vs. after?
With an accurate accounting of your damages, you can present this information with proof of your losses and other evidence to help strengthen your case. Enlisting an attorney to assist you with your claim can better understand how insurance companies may evaluate your claim.
Negotiation with the Insurance Adjuster
Negotiating with the insurance company is the most difficult and risky part of any personal injury claim. If you engage with them, they may be able to use the words you say against you. They are very shrewd and have been trained to speak and question people in a specific way.
For example, they may ask:
“Have you ever looked at your phone while driving?”
“How are your injuries healing? Are you feeling better?”
Sadly, how you answer these questions can be twisted and used to reduce their liability. Their main goal is to shift liability away from the insurance company and if possible, deny your claim outright.
The legal system is complex, and without legal knowledge and experience, the insurance company can take advantage of you. The best way to preserve your ability to claim compensation and avoid accepting an undervalued settlement is to hire a lawyer.
Consider Getting Legal Counsel
An experienced personal injury attorney will be very familiar with the insurance company’s tactics and will know how to combat them. In the event that negotiations don’t come to a favorable conclusion, your attorney can pursue the matter in court. Just remember, the first offer is not the final one, nor the best they can do.