Let’s imagine you recently finished recovering from your injury, and are about to start settlement negotiations. You’ve had a tough recovery, and are ready to get your life back to normal. Your documents are organized, you’ve calculated your damages, and you’ve written a strong demand letter.
During your recovery, you spoke with the adjuster on a few occasions, who seemed pleasant enough. But, you never actually discussed your final settlement. You hope she’ll be cordial, easy to work with, and eager to settle your claim. You might also expect her to have some empathy for the pain and suffering you’ve endured.
The first thing you need to do is stop assuming. Every claims adjuster is different, and each has a unique negotiation style. Most will have little, if any empathy for their claimants. Negotiating settlements is their job. For them it’s not personal, it’s just business.
Understanding the Adjuster
Your claims adjuster goes into work every day and sees the same files on her desk she left there the day before. Each one of those files represents the victim of a personal injury, likely caused by her insured. Her job is to investigate each claim and either deny coverage, or settle when liability is clear.
A claims adjuster spends the majority of her time on the telephone with injury victims. Much of that time is devoted to negotiating settlements. It’s a high stress job. Adjusters can be handling up to 100 claims at any one time. Many adjusters develop a detached negotiating style to prevent the stress from getting to them.
Also, the adjuster’s sense of what’s fair is much different than yours. She’s looking at the claim from the insurance company’s point of view.
You’ll negotiate more effectively if you remain calm. The adjuster has a lot of experience dealing with angry and hostile people, and she won’t be bullied. You probably won’t be able to out-negotiate the adjuster, so you’ll have to present a clear case and back it up with credible evidence.
What Influences an Adjuster’s Negotiating Style?
An adjuster’s style can be affected by different factors, including where they’re from, their level of education, their office environment, and their individual personality. Let’s discuss these factors in more depth…
- Where the adjuster is from
You may be calling from Alabama, but the adjuster you’re speaking with could be in San Diego or New York City. Her accent and manner of speaking may be different from yours, and her social “niceties” will vary by region.
- Level of education
Some adjusters will have college degrees, while others may have only graduated from high school. An adjuster with a four-year degree in business administration will have a different manner than one who spent two years in a fine arts program.
- Work environment
Some insurance offices have management policies that reward aggressive behavior when negotiating, while others may favor more agreeable approaches.
- Adjuster’s personality
Some adjusters are arrogant bullies who are mean to everyone. Others are kind people who treat injury victims the way they would like to be treated. Every adjuster has their own unique personality, but they all have one thing in common, they’re all fierce negotiators.
Try to look past an adjuster’s negotiating style, and focus on the substance of the negotiation. While it may be difficult to deal with an adjuster who stymies your every step, you must rise above whatever is annoying you and concentrate on the business at hand.
Stay open-minded and flexible. Adapt to the situation and don’t let the adjuster’s style upset you. Do NOT take what the adjuster says personally. While you may be upset or annoyed by something she said during a call, you can be sure she forgot the conversation three seconds after hanging up.
Inside the Mind of an Adjuster
The adjuster’s empathy for you will be limited, if it exists at all. Knowing this is good. If you don’t expect her to feel sorry for you, you’re ahead of the game. The at-fault party’s rudeness at the accident scene, or you’re having to miss your daughter’s piano recital are not factors to her. Don’t be surprised if she bluntly dismisses these points.
While each adjuster has their own unique negotiating style, they all want the same thing – to settle the claim as quickly and cheaply as possible. You will both agree on the “quickly” part, it’s the “cheaply” part you will have a problem with.
Good adjusters are good salespeople. A successful salesperson knows how to adapt his style to match the customer’s. They focus on identifying the needs and desires of their customer, then target their sales pitch to convince the customer that their product satisfies those needs and desires. They make the customer want to buy what they’re selling.
A successful adjuster does the same. She can get inside a claimant’s head and find the triggers that will persuade him to agree to a settlement in the insurance company’s favor. She’ll convince the claimant it’s in his own best interests.
A good adjuster likely has several methods for working with people. She can tailor her method to suit each new negotiation, and adapt it to work effectively with each claimant’s personality.
When the adjuster becomes too friendly or interested in your personal life, be wary. She may be looking for things she can use to distract you from the target of your negotiation – the settlement amount. Friendliness is fine, as long as you keep it on a professional level.
It’s Just Business
Your negotiation with the adjuster is a business transaction. Focus on the business at hand and never lose sight of your goal. The best way to overcome the challenges of an adjuster’s difficult negotiation style is to have total command of the facts of your claim.
The adjuster may have more experience negotiating, but there’s no way she can know the facts of your claim better than you. You were there – she wasn’t. You were in the accident, you were hurt, and you felt the pain. You took the photos and spoke with the witnesses and police officers. You were with the doctors and heard their opinions first hand.
The adjuster’s information is second hand, at best. Don’t let her manipulate the facts. Stand by what you saw and heard, present credible evidence, and remain professional at all times. Do these things, and you can negotiate a settlement you’ll be happy with.
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