Learn how to successfully negotiate your slip and fall injury claim. Confidently work with the insurance adjuster to reach a fair settlement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of five slip and fall accidents cause a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury.¹
Total injuries due to falls in the U.S. are estimated to cost $13-14 million per year.²
When someone else is to blame for the slip and fall, victims can pursue compensation for their losses. Generally, that means filing an injury claim with the at-fault property owner’s insurance company.
If you file a claim, the insurance company won’t automatically send you a check for your losses. You or your attorney will have to negotiate with a claims adjuster to reach a fair settlement.
Insurance negotiations take time and effort. If you decide to handle your own injury claim, you can get the job done with some preparation and understanding of the negotiation process.
Demand Fair Compensation for Your Injury
Negotiations get underway after calculating the value of your slip and fall injury and demanding that amount to settle your insurance claim.
A settlement demand letter tells the insurance company how much compensation you are seeking. It also explains the facts of your case, describes your injuries, and asserts that the property owner is responsible for your injuries.
The demand letter packet must include copies of your bills, receipts, wage statement, and any other hard costs incurred by your slip and fall.
Your demand is the starting point for all negotiations that will take place between you and the adjuster. Make sure you provide clear evidence supporting the dollar amount you demand so that you can refer to it during later talks.
For example, if you’re asking for pain and suffering, explain how your slip and fall injury has negatively impacted your life. Maybe it has caused you to miss out on certain activities or has disrupted your personal life. No matter the specific impact, explain it in detail.
In most cases, the claims adjuster will make a counteroffer to settle your claim for less. Much less. Making a ridiculously low offer is an easy way for the adjuster to gauge what they can get away with.
Don’t get rattled or insulted. Simply reject the lowball offer and counter with an offer slightly less than your original demand.
Advance Negotiation Planning Pays Off
Before speaking with the adjuster and talking numbers, it’s a good idea to plan your negotiation strategy. Even a little preparation can lead to a higher payout from the insurance company.
Adjusters are trained to find reasons to reduce or deny injury claims. For example, the adjuster might try to shift some of the blame on you to justify paying less. But when you’re prepared to deal with the adjuster’s negotiating tactics, they won’t be able to take advantage of you.
Determine a Minimum Settlement Amount
All claimants hope to settle their injury claim for the full amount they request in their demand letter. However, professional negotiators understand that there must be give and take on both sides to reach an agreement.
While there are reasons to settle your claim for less than what you demanded, don’t let an adjuster treat you unfairly.
To help protect your interests, it’s a good idea when forming your negotiation strategy to determine the minimum settlement amount that you’re willing to accept. Keep this value to yourself and don’t tell the adjuster how low you’re willing to go.
If the adjuster never offers a settlement amount above your bottom line, it’s time to consider speaking with an attorney about the value and strength of your claim.
Remind Yourself to Remain Calm
Claim negotiations can quickly become frustrating. The adjuster might say things you don’t want to hear, or you may feel offended by an insurer’s position.
If you lose your cool, the adjuster has the advantage. For example, if the adjuster thinks you’re in a tough spot financially, they will drag out the process knowing you will eventually settle for less out of desperation.
It’s important to remain calm throughout the claims process. Remind yourself that negotiation can be irritating or aggravating. You’ll usually end up with a better settlement by negotiating with patience and persistence.
Inject Some Emotion into Your Dealings
No matter how sympathetic an adjuster may seem, they will view the facts of a claim impassively. The adjuster is never your friend, so don’t be fooled into revealing personal information they can use against you. They don’t need to know you’re going through a divorce or the rent is past due.
However, in developing your negotiation strategy, look at your damages, especially your non-economic damages, and see where you can stress an emotional side of your case.
Let’s say you slipped and fell down some stairs and suffered a deep cut to your knee. If you have a photograph of the injury immediately after the accident happened, you’ll want to make sure the adjuster sees a color copy of it.
Similarly, pictures of your torn and bloody pants can be compelling evidence. Let the adjuster know you’ve retained the actual bloody garments as evidence.
Use vivid language to describe your physical pain and how the injury impacted your life.
Examples of descriptive language:
- Agonizing hours of stabbing pain keeping you awake at night
- Guilt and heartbreak when you couldn’t go to your sobbing toddler
- Gut-twisting cramps and nausea side-effects from medication
You can forget about tugging on the adjuster’s emotions. However, a savvy adjuster will often be willing to pay more to keep a credible and convincing injury victim from telling their story to a jury.
The Counteroffer and Negotiating Tactics
Expect to hear from the adjuster within a few weeks of sending your demand packet. You’ll get a letter or phone call with a counteroffer far less than your demand.
The adjuster might say the low offer is fair because you:
- Delayed in receiving medical attention
- Helped cause your injury
- Didn’t need to take time off of work
- Want an unreasonable amount for pain and suffering
- Failed to submit a timely claim, or the claim is incomplete
Don’t be surprised if the adjuster says they’re not authorized to offer more, or they already went to a supervisor to get permission for the amount they offered.
All these excuses are common adjuster negotiating tactics to get you to settle for less.
Responding to the Counteroffer
It’s often best to respond to an adjuster’s counteroffer by calling them. When you call, stay focused and calm. Don’t offer any more information than is required.
A good starting point is to ask the adjuster to justify their counteroffer. Write down every reason that the adjuster gives. If the adjuster is a fast talker, ask them to repeat information you may have missed.
Once you understand the adjuster’s reasoning for the counteroffer, don’t begin arguing or asking for more money. Rather, thank the adjuster and let them know that you’ll contact them soon. Politely end the call.
You just showed the insurance adjuster you are going to be a thoughtful and competent negotiator.
It’s normally best to respond to a counteroffer by sending a letter. This helps you focus and also helps keep your emotions under control.
In your response letter, address every reason for the adjuster’s counteroffer. For example, if the adjuster said you helped cause the accident, list any evidence that shows you were free of blame. If the adjuster questioned the severity of an injury, point out photographs or medical records that show the true extent of your injuries.
When you write this letter, you may want to lower your demand slightly. Keep in mind that you are negotiating down from your initial demand and not up from the adjuster’s low offer.
You don’t want to lower your demand by a significant amount. Try a small amount at first and wait for the adjuster’s response. Don’t negotiate against yourself by calling back with another lower offer before the adjuster responds.
Typically once you show that you’re willing to compromise, the adjuster will keep negotiating to arrive at a fair settlement.
You should have no trouble negotiating slip and fall hard costs if your medical treatment was reasonable and necessary, and you have a doctor’s note for the time you missed from work.
It’s trickier to negotiate compensation for pain and suffering because you won’t have bills or receipts, but evidence like witness statements and vivid descriptions of your experience will go a long way.
Negotiations may continue for a few more rounds before reaching a settlement agreement. During each round of negotiations, take detailed notes. Try to keep supporting your demand amount with specific evidence from your slip and fall case.
Emphasize Your Claim’s Strengths
When negotiating with the adjuster, you don’t have to repeat everything in your demand letter. It’s a better approach to emphasize the top three or four strengths in your claim.
For example, if the property owner was clearly at fault, stress this. If you have a photo that shows a painful injury, mention the photo.
You’ll come across as persuasive when you can emphasize a few strong points in a row and back each point up with medical bills and records, witness statements, or other evidence.
Be Careful of What You Say
Claims adjusters are always on the lookout for an excuse to reduce or deny your injury claim. They may try to get you to admit that you were at fault for your slip and fall, or that you exaggerated an injury.
While you have to negotiate truthfully, avoid saying that you were to blame for your injuries.
Emphasize the severity of your injuries and the pain they caused, but avoid coming off as stretching the truth or exaggerating.
Use concise communications as opposed to lengthy discussions with lots of run-on sentences. Say what you need to say, then stop and wait. You don’t have to fill the gap in a discussion. Further, always think about what you’re going to say before actually saying it. It’s okay to pause before responding to a question or comment.
When Claim Negotiations Fail
Sometimes injury claim negotiations fall apart without a settlement, or the adjuster denies a claim.
All is not lost if this happens. You can still pursue compensation for your slip and fall injuries. For example, you can try to recover your damages from the at-fault party by filing a lawsuit in a small claims court or even a higher court if you suffered significant losses.
If your slip and fall accident involves a high amount of damages, contact an experienced personal injury attorney for help. Insurance companies have a reputation for making low settlement offers for high-dollar claims when the injury victim is not represented by an attorney.
Your attorney can reopen negotiations with the claims adjuster. Adjusters tend to change their tune once an attorney gets involved. If the adjuster still won’t budge, your attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf.
You can contact a slip and fall attorney at any time before settling your claim. If you feel uncomfortable dealing with the insurance company, then it’s a smart idea to consult with a lawyer before negotiations begin.
Most injury attorneys offer potential clients a free consultation. During this consultation, a lawyer will answer your basic questions at no charge and inform you of your options.
The majority of personal injury lawyers also work on a contingency fee arrangement. This means that you don’t have to pay your lawyer unless they settle your slip and fall claim or receive a favorable award in court.
Bad Faith Denials
It’s possible that an insurance company denied your claim because it acted in bad faith. If this happens, you may have the right to sue them, or you could file a complaint with your state’s insurance commissioner.
All states have laws in place that require insurers to use good faith and fair dealing with all claims, no matter the type of claim.
Some jurisdictions only allow you to sue when it’s your own insurer acting in bad faith. However, there are other remedies you can pursue against the insurance company.
If you believe your slip and fall claim was denied in bad faith, you should consult with a personal injury attorney to learn your options. You might have to file a lawsuit against the property owner if their insurance company won’t negotiate in good faith.
Finalize Your Settlement Agreement
If you successfully settle your slip and fall claim, you’ll want to confirm your agreement with the insurance adjuster.
Confirm the terms of the agreement in writing by summarizing:
- The settlement amount
- The date you came to the agreement
- The injuries or damages that the settlement amount covers
- The date when the company will issue your settlement paperwork and payment
If you decide to confirm the settlement agreement by email, make sure to cc: yourself and print out a copy for your records.
When to Expect Your Settlement Check
You’ll obviously want to receive your settlement check as soon as possible. The money will help pay for your damages and help you get past your slip and fall event.
If you were represented by an attorney, ask your attorney when you can expect to receive your injury compensation.
If you settled your own claim, ensure timely delivery of your check by promptly signing and returning the release and settlement agreement. Once you send the signed agreement, you can generally expect to get paid within two to three weeks.
If you haven’t received a check by this time, contact the adjuster and ask when you might receive your payment. If the adjuster says that the insurance company already issued the check, try to get tracking information. If they say it was sent by regular mail, ask for the check date and check number.
Keep in mind that there are times when an insurance company might have a valid reason for a delay in sending a settlement check. For example, when there are liens on your injury settlement. State laws often require insurers to compensate lienholders before issuing funds to the injured claimant.
As with negotiating your claim, patience goes a long way when waiting to collect your settlement check. While patience pays, it’s also important to hold the insurance company accountable for complying with the terms of your settlement agreement.
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