Take some of the stress out of negotiating with the insurance adjuster. Use this free worksheet to help settle your injury claim.
Most personal injury claims are settled out of court with the at-fault party’s insurance company. High-dollar claims for serious injuries, or complicated claims (like medical malpractice) should be handled by an experienced personal injury attorney to get anywhere near the amount of compensation you deserve.
However, if you’ve recovered from relatively mild injuries after a car accident or slip and fall, you might be able to successfully negotiate a settlement on your own.
Preparation is the key to reaching a fair settlement with the insurance adjuster. Take advantage of this helpful resource as part of your negotiation strategy.
Click on the image below to download the PDF worksheet:
Gathering Evidence and Filing Your Claim
Collecting evidence for a strong injury claim starts at the scene. The incident should be reported, either by calling the police to report a car accident, or filing an incident report after a slip and fall accident.
A police accident report can establish the other driver’s fault for the crash. Because police are trained accident investigators, the report carries a lot of weight with insurance adjusters.
If you’re able, take pictures and videos of the accident scene. Take close-up photos of the hazard that caused your fall. Also take pictures of your injuries, right after the incident and throughout your recovery. Photographic evidence can be very compelling.
Get the name and contact information of anyone who saw the accident. Witness statements about the circumstances and your injured condition at the scene can help prove you did nothing to contribute to your own injuries.
As soon as you identify the at-fault party’s insurance company, put the insurer on notice of your intent to file an injury claim. The insurance company will typically give you a claim number and assign your claim to an adjuster. You don’t have to be ready to negotiate at this stage, even if they offer a quick settlement to see if you’ll go away. Add this information to your worksheet.
By the time you’ve fully recovered, you should have collected copies of all your medical bills and records, a lost wages statement from your employer, and receipts for any other accident-related expenses.
The Injury Claim Negotiations Process
With all your medical bills and other hard costs in hand, you’re ready to calculate the value of your injury claim.
Use the full amount of your medical expenses, even if all or part of your medical costs were paid by Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, or private health insurance. Likewise, add in the full amount of your lost wages, even if you used vacation time or sick leave.
Total your bills, expenses, and lost wages, then add one or two times that amount to account for your pain and suffering. Most adjusters are willing to consider a reasonable amount of compensation for your non-economic damages.
Negotiations start with your demand letter to the insurance company. The demand letter itemizes your damages and tells the adjuster exactly how much compensation you want to settle your claim. Enclose copies (never the originals) of the bills and receipts you used to calculate your claim value.
After you’ve sent your demand packet, expect the adjuster to respond with a very low offer. Ask the adjuster to explain why they think the low offer is fair. Politely listen and say you’ll get back to them.
After a few days, counter with another offer slightly lower than your original demand. Explain why your claim is worth that much. Only negotiate down in small increments. Never try to negotiate up from the adjuster’s low-ball offer.
Experienced negotiators understand that both sides must compromise to reach a fair settlement agreement. Expect a few more rounds of negotiations before reaching an agreement. Update the negotiations worksheet as you go, to help keep track of your progress.
When you and the adjuster have agreed upon a settlement amount, follow up in writing. Email is okay, so long as you confirm the terms of the agreement and the amount of compensation you’ll receive.
Be sure you understand how any medical liens will be paid from your settlement proceeds.
Update the negotiations worksheet with your settlement information. The worksheet can be added to your injury claim file and kept for your personal records.
Helpful Tips for Successful Claim Negotiations
You’ll be more confident and effective if you’re well prepared for negotiations. Invest in the time to organize all your evidence, correspondence, and other paperwork before you begin active negotiations. You’ll need to have all your claim information handy when you’re talking to the adjuster.
Don’t be fooled by common insurance adjuster tactics. Some adjusters are belligerent and condescending. If they can bait you into losing your cool, they can get you to say things they can use against you. Some adjusters come across as respectful and very sympathetic. Watch out! The adjuster is not your friend. Don’t share personal information or admit you’re struggling financially.
The adjuster is trained to settle your claim for as little as possible. Don’t be offended or upset when they start off with a ridiculously low offer. Take your time to think about each offer. Give it a day or two before responding with your counter-offer. You’ll be more successful by negotiating with patience and persistence.
Be prepared to justify the amount you’re asking for pain and suffering. You can point out entries in the doctor’s notes about your limitations, and use your injury diary notes to explain how the injuries negatively impacted your daily life.
Know your bottom line. When you calculate the compensation value of your injury claim, decide what is the lowest amount you’re willing to accept. Don’t reveal your bottom line to the adjuster, but keep it in mind during negotiations.
Sometimes negotiations break down, despite your best efforts. If the adjuster won’t cooperate or is unwilling to come off a low offer, it’s time to consult an attorney.
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