Learn how to effectively handle the insurance adjuster’s style and tactics when negotiating your injury settlement.
Let’s imagine you were banged up from a slip and fall accident or sustained soft-tissue injuries from a car accident. You filed a claim with the at-fault party’s insurer and you’re now 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. Here we help you improve your negotiation skills by unpacking the attitudes and tactics you might expect from the insurance adjuster.
Adjuster Styles to Expect From the Start
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 the 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 get inside a claimant’s head and find triggers to 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.
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.
Watch what you say. Responding to the adjuster’s, “How are you this morning?” by saying, “Fine, thank you!” can be construed as an admission that you have no lingering effects from your injuries.
Think twice before agreeing to provide a recorded statement. You are under no legal obligation to be verbally questioned or interviewed about the incident that resulted in your injuries. You can relate your side of the story in writing instead of giving the adjuster a chance to ask trick questions or manipulate you into saying things that hurt your claim.
Instead of a seemingly warm and sympathetic adjuster, you might get one who is cold, critical, and acts like you’re trying to pull a fast one. 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 cold 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Region 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.
Knowing what to expect from an insurance claims adjuster allows you to stay focused and confident. Investing the time to prepare your own negotiation strategy in advance is key to successfully reaching a fair insurance settlement in your personal injury claim.
Adjuster Tactics During Claim Negotiations
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. Always keep in mind your bottom line – the minimum settlement amount you can live with.
Common insurance adjuster tactics include:
- 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.
- Making Low Settlement Offers: Plenty of insurance adjusters start every negotiation with a low-ball first offer. Always counter down from the original amount in your demand letter, a little at a time. Don’t be tricked into trying to negotiate up from a ridiculously low initial counteroffer.
- Citing “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 instead of fair compensation.
- Downplaying Your Injuries: The adjuster may question your medical treatment, and will certainly downplay your pain and suffering. If you were in a traffic accident, they may say your injury seems overstated compared to the minor property damage to your vehicle.
Your negotiation with the adjuster is a business transaction. If they can get you to lose your temper, they have an advantage. The adjuster has a lot of experience dealing with angry and hostile people, and they won’t be bullied.
You’ll negotiate more effectively if you remain calm. Focus on the business at hand and move through the steps to settlement.
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 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 and the emotional distress. You have medical bills and medical records, the incident report or police report, and other convincing documentation to support your pain and suffering 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 fair 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. If the adjuster flatly refuses to continue negotiating toward a fair settlement, don’t give up.
Your first option is to ask to speak with the adjuster’s supervisor. Explain your situation and why you believe the adjuster is not correctly valuing your claim.
If the supervisor doesn’t budge and won’t continue negotiations, you can file a complaint with your state insurance board. A call from the regulatory agency may get negotiations moving.
Consider Hiring an Attorney
Lastly, you can get legal advice at any point during negotiations. If you can’t make progress on your own, consider hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. They negotiate with insurance companies for a living.
Sometimes hiring an attorney is all it takes to bring the adjuster back to the negotiating table with a fair settlement offer. A seasoned accident lawyer gets to know the adjusters working in your state, and how to handle them.
If you’ve done considerable work gathering evidence, submitting your demand, and negotiating, you may want to ask the attorney to lower their fee. They may agree, especially if all of the legwork has already been done on your case.
Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation to injury victims. When settlement negotiations break down, it costs nothing to have a case evaluation with an experienced attorney.
Beware the Statute of Limitations
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.
Common 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 car 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 adjuster goes into work every day and sees the same claim 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 one of their insureds.
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 injury claims at any one time. The clock is always ticking for the adjuster, as their 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. They’ve seen and heard it all. Most could care less how the auto accident or slip and fall impacted your life.
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