7 Tips for Negotiating the Maximum Personal Injury Settlement

Take advantage of these tips for negotiating with insurance companies. Settle your personal injury claim for top dollar.

Complex cases like medical malpractice, dangerous drugs, or product liability should only be handled by an experienced attorney. The average person can’t win a high-dollar case on their own.

But 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 our top negotiating tips for getting a fair personal injury settlement.

Top 7 Tips for Negotiating a Personal Injury Settlement:

  1. Organize Your Injury-Related Paperwork
  2. Know What Your Claim is Worth
  3. Plan Your Negotiation Strategy
  4. Understand Your Injury and Medical Terminology
  5. Use Outside Factors to Leverage a Higher Payout
  6. Don’t Be In a Hurry to Settle Your Claim
  7. Accept a Reasonable Settlement Offer

Tip 1: Organize Your Injury-Related Paperwork

Organize all your injury-related documents and evidence into a claim file before you start negotiations with the insurance company.

Easy access to police reports and other evidence of fault makes it easier to point to the insured as liable for your injuries. You may also need to use the same evidence to quash efforts by the insurance adjuster to pin some of the blame on you.

Organize your medical bills and records by provider and date. It doesn’t hurt to make a timeline by listing the dates and types of all your medical treatments. Be sure you have copies of your doctor’s notes restricting your ability to work while you recovered from your injuries.

Your injury claim file should include sections for:

Tip 2: Know What Your Claim is Worth

The value of your claim can be calculated by adding up all your economic damages, meaning medical bills and out-of-pocket medical costs, and your lost wages. Multiply that amount by one to two times to account for your non-economic damages, commonly called pain and suffering.

A multiplier of one to two is appropriate for minor to moderate personal injury cases.

Fair settlement values for serious injury claims often include non-economic damages that are three to five times the total medical bills and expenses. Severe personal injury claims and wrongful death cases are best handled by an experienced personal injury attorney to get a fair payout.

Submit a Standout Demand Packet

The insurance settlement negotiation process begins when you submit a packet to the insurance company with a written demand for compensation and copies of your supporting documentation.

Using our demand letter template as a guide, you can submit a demand that looks similar to a letter drafted by a personal injury lawyer.

The claims adjuster is entitled to see copies of your medical bills and receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, as well as proof of your lost wages. Your packet should include evidence of the insured’s fault for your injuries.

Tip 3: Plan Your Negotiation Strategy

If you decide to handle your injury claim on your own, 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 direct 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

Measurable 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.

Once you have an idea of what your claim is worth, decide on your bottom line. What’s the lowest you’re willing to go to reach a settlement agreement without litigation? Never tell the claims adjuster how low you’re willing to go, but always keep your minimum settlement amount in mind.

Be prepared to deal with the adjuster’s style and common negotiating tactics, like a lowball first offer and a dismissive attitude about your injuries. Plan to negotiate down from your initial settlement demand, not up from the adjuster’s counteroffers.

Keep in mind that you have the right to seek legal advice at any point during the negotiation process.

Tip 4: Understand Your Injury and Medical Terminology

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

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

No two accident settlements 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.

Study your medical records. Look up 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.”

Since 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. Using information from reliable reference sources, you can gather convincing evidence of the risk of future adverse effects from your concussion. 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.

Tip 5: Use Outside Factors to Leverage a Higher Payout

Traditional factors in personal injury claims include the obvious negligence of the at-fault party, along with your pain, stress, and 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.

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 have proof in your favor. You need to paint a picture of what would happen if a jury saw your evidence, and how it would likely affect their verdict.

Outside factors to support your claim can include:

  • Eyewitness testimony about 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
  • 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 they were 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 auto accident 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. 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 a positive difference in your final settlement.

Tip 6: Don’t Be In a Hurry to Settle Your Claim

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.

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.

Beware of the Statute of Limitations

Each state has a statute of limitations for injury claims. This is 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 insurance claim or file a personal injury 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.

Tip 7: Accept a Reasonable Settlement Offer

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 enough compensation to be better off. Litigation costs must be paid and your personal injury lawyer’s fees must come out of the proceeds.

If you have a weak claim, it may be smart to accept a nuisance value settlement. This way, you’ll guarantee yourself a small amount of compensation, and avoid the risk of a trial not going your way.

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 make a reasonable offer to settle your claim.

Most injury attorneys offer a free consultation. There’s no cost to get a professional case evaluation so you can make an informed decision.

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 >>