When learning how to negotiate effectively, there are two traits you must always maintain: patience and persistence. Here we discuss how these characteristics affect negotiations. If you haven’t reviewed the basic negotiation steps, be sure to do so before moving on.
After the Demand Letter
Let’s assume you’re about to enter the negotiation phase of your personal injury claim. It’s been a difficult recovery and you’re ready to get your life back to normal. If you’ve sent your demand letter, there’s just one last hurdle to clear – getting the adjuster to pay your settlement.
Your demand letter includes a detailed accounting of your medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. You then applied a reasonable multiple to represent your pain and suffering, and arrived at your final settlement demand.
In a perfect world, the adjuster would thank you for making a fair demand, apologize for the inconvenience you suffered at the hands of his insured, and mail you a check for the full amount. Unfortunately, in the imperfect world of personal injury claims, adjusters don’t apologize to victims, and prompt settlements are the exception, not the rule.
The settlement process is deliberate, and at times can even be manipulative and confrontational. The adjuster will try hard to maintain the upper hand. One of the ways he’ll exercise control is by taking his time when responding to your communications.
Although it’s in his best interest to settle your claim as quickly as possible, the adjuster is bound by his own schedule, which may include working on up to 100 claims at a time. As a result, your claim will likely move along at a slower pace than you’d like. This is where patience plays an important role.
If you go into the negotiation knowing it may stretch over several weeks, months, or possibly even years, you’ll not only sleep better, but you’ll probably end up with a higher settlement. By taking your time, you will use more objective reasoning and arguments, and avoid succumbing to the anxiety and frustration that leads to bad decisions.
The adjuster may present several reasons for not giving his full time and attention to your claim. These might include:
- His high caseload with other, more serious claims
- The time it takes to gather information from witnesses, police reports, etc.
- The speed in which third parties respond
- Review of the claim by his supervisors and other management
- The time it takes for him to collect information from you
You probably won’t be able to facilitate his first four excuses, but you can eliminate the fifth. Organizing your evidence in a clear and concise format will not only save time, but will also give you a feeling of control over the speed of negotiations. Don’t underestimate the benefits of being organized.
While some minor personal injury claims are settled in a matter of weeks, many take several months or even years to settle. Keep in mind that a good adjuster wants to settle his claims as quickly and cheaply as possible. He’ll be more than happy to promptly settle your claim, if you’ll agree to settle for a much lower amount than you deserve, of course.
It’s understandable to want the adjuster to move your claim to the top of his priority list. A car accident, slip and fall, or other injury event is traumatic. Your injuries have altered your life, and possibly that of your family. After all, it was the adjuster’s insured who caused all these problems.
Your patience may be exhausted even before you send your demand letter. Unfortunately, the adjuster won’t be empathetic. It’s part of his job, and your claim is just one of many files on his desk. The pace of negotiations will be set by the adjuster. You’ll need the patience to follow along.
Sometime after receiving your demand letter, the adjuster will contact you, usually by telephone, and make a counteroffer. He’ll present several reasons why your demand is unrealistic, and then make a significantly lower counteroffer, probably while making it seem like he’s doing you a favor.
If the adjuster’s first offer is excessively low, and it almost always is, you’ll have to reject it and get back to him with your own counteroffer. Don’t counter immediately over the telephone. The adjuster is watching to see how you react. If there were ever a good time to show your poker face, this is it.
Exercising patience may be difficult, especially if you feel insulted by the the adjuster’s offer, but it’s an important part of negotiating effectively.
Take your time and think about the adjuster’s counteroffer. Remember, it’s a negotiation, and the unwritten rules require both sides to compromise to some degree. At the end of a successful negotiation, neither side gets exactly what they want. This is why you start out with a higher demand than you expect to get.
After receiving the adjuster’s offer, take a few days to come up with your own counteroffer. Put it in writing and mail it, then sit back and wait. You may not hear from the adjuster for a week or more. That doesn’t mean you can’t call the adjuster if you think it’s been too long since you last spoke.
There’s nothing wrong with picking up the phone, as long as you remain professional. If you have to leave a voicemail, let it signal your restraint and determination. Don’t let your frustration show. The adjuster is looking for any weakness he can use as leverage to lower your settlement.
Here’s a good voicemail example:
“Hello John, this is Bill Monroe. My claim number is 23567. We last spoke on May 11th. At that time, I informed you that your offer of $2,400 was unacceptable. On May 13th, I mailed you my counteroffer of $5,100. I have yet to hear from you.
Please get back to me at your earliest convenience so we can settle this matter. My telephone number is 555-345-2741. I look forward to hearing from you.”
That message is an example of negotiating through the use of constructive persistence. While showing restraint and patience, you remind the adjuster of your intent to resolve your claim. You let him know you’re not going anywhere and will not wait for him forever. A claims adjuster will respond to a polite message much better than a rude one.
Don’t leave a voicemail like this:
“John, this is Bill. I’m tired of waiting for you to call me back. I sent you a letter with my new demand. Why haven’t you called me yet? I’ve waited long enough. I want to speak with your supervisor. I want my money now!”
This is an example of destructive persistence, fueled by a complete lack of patience. It’s exactly how NOT to negotiate effectively. This type of message will only irritate the adjuster. In fact, many adjusters will purposely delay settlements for claimants who make things difficult with veiled threats or aggressive language.
Negotiating in Good Faith
Although an effective negotiation style requires patience and persistence, there’s nothing wrong with debating your point with the adjuster. You have every right to disagree with him. Moreover, it’s your duty to disagree when you think the adjuster is wrong about the need or cost of a certain medical treatment or expense.
The adjuster knows you’re not going to agree with everything he says. He expects you to argue. It’s part of the negotiation process and he’s prepared for it. As long as you negotiate with credible arguments and in a professional manner, you will maintain the adjuster’s respect. Respect leads to quicker and higher settlements almost every time.
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