Negotiating with Claims Adjusters: How to Handle Different Styles and Tactics

Learn how to effectively handle the insurance adjuster’s style and tactics when negotiating your injury claim settlement.

Let’s imagine you were banged up from a slip and fall accident or sustained soft-tissue injuries from an auto collision. The doctor says you’ve fully recovered.

You know what your claim is worth and you’re ready to negotiate with the insurance adjuster. The adjuster seemed pleasant the few times you spoke, but now it’s time to talk about money.

Negotiating with the insurance adjuster is the hardest part of handling your claim without an attorney. We help you improve your negotiation skills by unpacking the attitudes and tactics you might expect from the insurance adjuster.

Insurance Adjuster Characteristics

Insurance companies invest heavily in training their adjusters. After all, the company’s profit margin depends on each adjuster’s ability to settle claims as quickly and cheaply as possible.

You might be dealing with an adjuster from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, your auto insurance company, or a business owner’s liability insurance company. Every claims adjuster is different, and each has a unique negotiation style.

All adjusters share similar attributes:

  • They get paid to protect the interests of the insurance company
  • They’re not legally obligated to pay the full value of your claim
  • They won’t believe anything you say without evidence to back it up
  • For them, it’s just business

Your claims adjuster goes into work every day and sees the same files on their desk they left the night before. When they close one claim file, another takes its place. Each one of those files represents the victim of a personal injury, likely caused by their insured.

A claims adjuster spends most of their time on the telephone with injury victims. It’s a high-stress job. Adjusters can be handling up to 100 claims at any one time. The clock is always ticking for the adjuster, as their year-end bonus may depend on how fast they can close each claim.

Many adjusters develop a detached negotiating style to prevent the stress from getting to them. Anyway, they’ve seen and heard it all. Most could care less how the accident and injury impacted your life.

Factors That Influence Negotiating Style

An adjuster’s style can be influenced by different factors, including where they’re from, their office environment, and their personality.

  • Regional and Culture: Regional and cultural communication styles can vary widely; for example, some may take an indirect and slow approach to issues, while others may be fast-talking and blunt.
  • 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 polite people who treat injury victims courteously. Every adjuster has their own unique personality, but 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 seems to fight you every step of the way, rise above whatever is annoying you and concentrate on the business at hand.

Stay open-minded and flexible. Try not to take what the adjuster says personally, or at least don’t let them see they’ve gotten to you. If you are upset or annoyed by something they said during a call, take a breath and calm down before responding.

You’ll negotiate more effectively if you remain calm. The adjuster has a lot of experience dealing with angry and hostile people, and they 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.

The adjuster’s empathy for you will be limited, if it exists at all. Knowing this is good. If you don’t expect sympathy, you’re ahead of the game.

The adjuster doesn’t want to hear about the at-fault party’s rudeness at the accident scene, or how you had to miss your daughter’s piano recital. Don’t be surprised if they bluntly dismiss these points.

Common Adjuster Negotiating Tactics

While each adjuster has a 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’ll have a problem with.

Also, the adjuster’s sense of what’s fair is much different from yours. They’re looking at the claim from the insurance company’s point of view.

Good adjusters are good salespeople. A successful salesperson knows how to adapt their style to match the customer. 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. They can get inside a claimant’s head and find triggers that will persuade the claimant to agree to a settlement in the insurance company’s favor. They’ll convince the claimant it’s in their own best interests.

A good adjuster has several methods of working with people. They can tailor the method to suit each new negotiation and adapt it to work effectively with each claimant’s personality.

Common methods and tactics include:

  • Sympathetic Concern: Beware of the adjuster who is overly friendly or interested in your personal life. They may be looking for things they can use against you. For example, if you reveal that you have overdue bills or a large expense coming up, they can push you into thinking you should take a lower settlement so you can get paid faster.
  • Refusing to Negotiate: Don’t be fooled by an adjuster who says something like, “We never pay more than that for whiplash claims.” Everything is always negotiable. Your injury claim is unique, and you can explain why your claim value is higher than their offer.
  • Low Settlement Offers: Plenty of insurance adjusters start every negotiation with a low-ball settlement offer. Always negotiate down from your original demand, a little at a time. Don’t be tricked into trying to negotiate up from a ridiculously low offer.
  • Authority Limits: Don’t be surprised if the adjuster says the amount you’re seeking “exceeds their authority.” Even if that’s true, it only means the adjuster’s supervisor must sign off on a higher settlement. It’s not a reason for you to accept an unfairly low amount.

Your negotiation with the adjuster is a business transaction. Focus on the business at hand and move through your negotiation steps to settlement.

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 they can know the facts of your claim better than you. You were there – they weren’t. You were in the accident, you were hurt, and you felt the pain. You have medical records and bills, along with other convincing documentation to support your claim.

Don’t let the adjuster manipulate the facts. Stand by what you saw and heard, present credible evidence, and always remain professional. By negotiating with patience and persistence, you should arrive at a satisfactory settlement agreement.

What to Do When Negotiations Stall

It’s up to you to protect your interests during insurance negotiations. Remember, the adjuster is looking out for the insurance company, not you.

The adjuster won’t tell you about the statute of limitations in your state, which is the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit. If you haven’t settled your claim or filed a lawsuit before the statutory deadline, you forfeit the right to seek compensation for your injuries.

The adjuster may be dragging out negotiations on purpose, or because they’re lazy and disorganized. You always have the right to consult a personal injury attorney to discuss your options. A reputable injury attorney has years of experience negotiating with insurance companies.

Sometimes hiring an attorney is all it takes to kick the insurance adjuster into gear with a fair settlement offer.

Most injury attorneys don’t charge for their initial consultation. When settlement negotiations break down, it costs nothing to find out what an experienced attorney can do for you.

Video: Claim Adjuster Negotiation Styles

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 >>