Pro Negotiation Tips for Settling Your Personal Injury Claim

Tips on using attorney-style negotiation tactics to settle your injury claim with the insurance company for maximum compensation.

If someone else’s negligence caused your injuries, you have a right to seek compensation for your injury-related losses.

An experienced attorney should handle severe injury cases such as medical malpractice, dangerous drugs, or product liability. The average person can’t win a high-dollar case on their own.

Minor injury claims caused by car accidents or slip and falls can often be settled without an attorney if you’re willing to negotiate with the insurance company.

Here’s where we walk you through the basics of the injury claim process and share valuable tips for negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance adjuster.

Steps of the Injury Claim Process

If you’ve decided to handle your injury claim without a lawyer, the burden is on you to prove:

  1. The at-fault party owed you a duty of care, for example, to drive responsibly
  2. The at-fault party was negligent, meaning they did something wrong or failed to do what was reasonable under the circumstances, like failing to maintain a safe distance while driving
  3. The at-fault party’s negligence was the proximate cause of your injuries, for example, if the other driver hadn’t rear-ended your car, you wouldn’t have been injured
  4. You have measurable damages, for example, medical bills and lost wages

Damages include your medical expenses, physical therapy costs, out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost wages, and the cost of replacement services, like lawn mowing or childcare.

Pro Tip: Organize all your injury-related paperwork and evidence into an injury claim file before you start negotiations.

Basic injury claim process steps include:

  1. Gathering evidence of fault and proof of your injuries
  2. Calculating what your injury claim is worth
  3. Putting together a settlement packet and compensation demand letter
  4.  Negotiating a settlement amount with the claims adjuster

Beware of the Statute of Limitations

Each state has a statute of limitations for injury claims, meaning the deadline to either settle your claim with the adjuster or file a lawsuit. The statutory period in most states is from one to three years and begins to “run” on the date of your accident.

If you don’t settle your claim or file a lawsuit before the deadline, you lose the right to seek compensation for your injuries, no matter how seriously you were hurt.

The insurance adjuster does not have to warn you about the statutory deadline or help you settle the claim before the statute runs out. Be sure you know the statute of limitations that applies to your situation.

Using Key Factors During Negotiations

Most claimants only rely on traditional factors to support their demand when negotiating with the adjuster.

Traditional factors include:

  • How painful your injuries were
  • How difficult your recovery has been
  • How obviously negligent the at-fault party was
  • The stress you’ve been under from being out of work
  • The type and amount of your out-of-pocket expenses

These are all important factors – the foundation of any claim. Depending on your negotiation skills, any of these factors can be very persuasive to an adjuster. However, you can probably do more.

Pro Tip: Successful injury attorneys use outside factors to leverage higher settlement amounts.

Outside factors are found in the events surrounding your injury. The most effective outside factors are those that imply litigation. Attorneys use this method all the time to get the adjuster motivated to offer more to settle the claim.

The legitimate threat of a lawsuit can be a strong incentive for an adjuster. They don’t like to have their claims end up in court. Suggesting how powerful your evidence will be to a jury will quickly get the adjuster’s attention.

Don’t threaten to file an injury lawsuit unless you mean it and can provide outside factors in your favor.

To have a favorable effect on the adjuster, you need to paint a picture of what would happen if a jury saw your evidence, and how it would probably affect their verdict.

Outside factors to support your claim can include:

  • Eyewitness testimony about the clear negligence of the insured
  • Eyewitness testimony concerning the lacerations, contusions, appearance of blood, and excruciating pain you suffered at the time of the injury and soon afterward
  • Photographs of your mangled car and both cars crumpled together, including the broken glass and car parts strewn about the scene
  • Photos of your injuries, before and during treatment
  • Your damaged and bloody clothing from the accident
  • The insured’s driving record, including suspensions, tickets, and arrests for DUI or reckless driving
  • A police report indicating no fault on your part
  • The at-fault driver’s cell phone records indicating texting or talking at the time of the crash
  • A store’s record of customers injured by slip and falls, especially when the incidents were similar to yours
  • Surveillance camera footage from the store showing the hazard and the incident causing your injuries

You’ll have easy access to witness testimony and police reports. Online searches may reveal information like jury verdicts against a store or other business.

Some of these factors won’t be available unless you file a lawsuit. Once a lawsuit is filed, your attorney can discover additional evidence by issuing subpoenas and through depositions.

Even if you don’t have a particular piece of evidence in-hand (like cell phone records), suggesting that your attorney would seek that evidence during litigation may work just as well.

Your research and efforts will make an impact on the adjuster. If you can successfully leverage outside factors in your negotiations, you’ll see the positive difference in your final settlement.

Tips on Using Medical Info for Negotiating Injury Claims

Successful attorneys understand the importance of learning all about their clients’ injuries, including the injuries’ side-effects and the possibility of future related medical problems.

No two accidents are the same. There’s a range of pain and suffering unique to every injury victim. Because that range exists, insurance companies are forced to negotiate each claim separately and on its own merits.

Knowing the proper medical terms for an injury and its short and long term effects is a negotiation tactic used by most attorneys.

Pro Tip: Understanding your injury and its potential long-term effects helps you to be more persuasive during negotiations.

Understand Your Injury and Medical Terminology

You should have copies of all your medical records and bills.

Study your medical records. Lookup any words or medical terms you don’t understand. Online medical information sites like Web MD or the Mayo Clinic explain medical conditions and terms in easy-to-understand language.

By improving your understanding of the type and nature of your injury, you can use that knowledge to stand your ground with the insurance adjuster.

Example: Negotiating a Head Injury Claim

Imagine you fell down the steps of an office building due to a faulty handrail. You were treated in the emergency room for a brain concussion and then discharged. The doctor told you to watch out for future symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, or headaches that won’t go away.

You’ve now begun settlement negotiations with the adjuster who says, “I see you had a mild concussion with no further problems.”

When you speak with the adjuster, don’t refer to your injury as a concussion. The correct term for your injury is “brain concussion.”

Because you’ve learned about head injury claims like yours, you can say something like:

“Because your insured failed to maintain the safety rails, I suffered a brain concussion from the fall. I’m worried about the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries like mine, especially the risk for continued headaches and memory loss.”

Head injuries of any type are serious. Sometimes the effects may not show up for months or even years after the injury. Using information from reliable reference sources, you can gather convincing evidence of the risk of future adverse effects from your concussion.

Some victims of brain concussions recover quickly and permanently, while others experience serious problems, even from “minor” concussions. Bring this information to the adjuster’s attention.

Putting in the time to research your injury can result in legitimate and viable reasons for the adjuster to increase the pain and suffering portion of their settlement offer.

Another effective tactic is to lead the adjuster to believe you may want to wait another year or so to see how your injury heals.

Pro Tip: Don’t be in a hurry to settle your injury claim.

By using the negotiation tactic of discussing your injury in medical terms, including your fact-based concern about future effects of the injury, you’ll get the claims adjuster’s attention. They want to settle your claim. The last thing the adjuster wants to do is explain to their supervisor why your file is still open for another fiscal year.

Example: Negotiating “Whiplash” Injury Claims

Imagine an at-fault driver rear-ended your car. Fortunately, there were no broken bones; however, your head was violently whipped backward and forward by the impact. Your family doctor diagnosed you as having suffered neck injuries commonly referred to as whiplash.

The morning after the crash, you could barely lift your arms. Your neck and shoulder were stiff and painful, and even turning your head was very difficult. You were off work for several days and treated with a neck brace and muscle relaxers.

Your doctor ordered physical therapy three times a week for the next month to help overcome the stiffness in your neck and shoulders.

Using the word “whiplash” to describe your injury to a claims adjuster is a negotiating mistake. Insurance adjusters tend to think that all claimants exaggerate whiplash injuries.

Whiplash is not a formal medical term; however, you can’t get around it if that’s what your medical provider put in your records. Still, you might be better off by just referring to your “flexion neck injury.”

Tell the adjuster your valid concerns about your neck injury and the possibility of future complications, especially if you’re still experiencing discomfort.

The adjuster might counter with a low offer, saying they never pay more than that amount for whiplash injuries.

Explain that medical experts say many people recover from neck injuries like yours within the first two to three months, but some continue to have pain and physical limitations for years after the injury.

You can say something like, “Since the statute of limitations for my case won’t run out for another two years, I may be better off waiting to see how well my neck injury heals.”

The adjuster will know they’re dealing with a knowledgeable claimant. Since they can’t fool you into taking less, you’re much more likely to get a reasonable settlement offer.

Pro Tip: Accept a reasonable settlement offer even when you want to hold out for your full demand.

In professional negotiations, there is always some compromise. Neither side gets everything they want. If you turn down a reasonable settlement offer, your plan might backfire. If you’re forced to file a lawsuit, there’s no guarantee you’ll win that much at trial.

When Claim Negotiations Stall

If the adjuster won’t negotiate your car accident claim in good faith or tries to pin some of the blame for the accident on you, don’t hesitate to speak to a personal injury attorney about your options.

Sometimes hiring a personal injury attorney is all it takes to get an obstinate adjuster to offer an acceptable settlement amount.

Most injury attorneys don’t charge for their initial consultation. There’s no cost to find out what an experienced attorney can do for you.

Video: Using Outside Factors to Negotiate a Higher Settlement

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>