Whether you’ve been involved in a car wreck, have been bitten by a dog, were injured by a defective product, or you’ve been subjected to some other form of Personal Injury, odds are good insurance companies will end up involved when trying to recover the costs associated with treatment and recovery.
Quite often, the initial settlement offer from an insurance company will be significantly less than the final costs associated with medical treatment and time off work. It’s worth it to prepare before discussing specific monetary amounts to ensure you’re in the best possible position to negotiate a personal injury settlement.
Let’s walk through the settlement negotiation steps.
Step 1: File a Claim. The first thing to do is to file a personal injury claim notifying the at-fault party’s insurance company about your accident and resulting injuries. In most cases, filing a claim will be fairly simple and involve speaking with a claims agent over the phone or filling out a form online. File your claim as soon as possible after an accident, hopefully within 24 hours of the event that caused the injury.
This will effectively begin the settlement negotiation process. Do not minimize your injuries when you speak with anyone, such as saying “Oh, I’m fine” or “I wasn’t injured much at all”. In many cases, injuries may take hours or even weeks to fully manifest, and minimizing them now could cause difficulties when negotiating later on.
Step 2: Meet With Legal Representation. While this step is optional, we find that scheduling a Personal Injury consultation can be immensely helpful with dealing with insurance companies after an injury. A consultation may be especially important if serious injury or death of a loved one is involved as the legal issues involved may be more complex. A consultation as soon as possible after the injury is recommended while memories are still fresh.
During the consultation, you’ll be able to tell your side of the story, speak with individuals who have experience in Personal Injury cases, and get a better idea of which documentation will be important to keep on-hand. You should leave the consultation with a much better idea of what steps to take moving forward.
Step 3: You’ll Receive a Letter From the Insurance Company. After your personal injury claim has been filed, you’ll likely receive a letter from the insurance company. Essentially, this letter will indicate that your claim will be investigated and that they intend to communicate further with you in the future, but it does not admit to any liability on behalf of the other party.
Step 4: You Respond With a Demand Letter to the Insurance Company. This doesn’t have to be done right away, so in case of severe injuries it can be handled once you’re sufficiently healed from your injuries.
You’ll send a “demand letter” to the at-fault party’s insurance. In the letter, you’ll describe the basic facts of what happened, how you came to be injured by the at-fault party, and how severe your injuries are.
You’ll also want at least a fairly accurate estimate of your damages, including medical bills, out-of-pocket costs, and lost income. If you keep every medical bill, repair bill, or other bill associated with the injury together, you should be able to give a very accurate number for costs incurred.
Step 5: You’ll Receive a Response to Your Letter. The claims adjuster, after looking over the facts of the injury and your demand letter, will respond. You may receive a phone call to discuss an initial settlement offer or receive the offer through a letter posted in the mail.
In many cases, the claims adjuster will try to convince you that your claim is worth less than you asked for, that you are simply asking for too much, and attempt to pressure you into accepting a lower offer right away. You do not have to accept this offer — you can try to negotiate if the offer is lower than expected.
Keep in mind that the claims adjuster is paid to try to negotiate lower settlements in order to save the insurance company money — they’re only doing their job. Be polite but firm, and insist that your costs be covered.
Step 6: Negotiations. During this stage, you may need to go back and forth with the insurance company a few times to find a settlement amount that is suitable for both parties.
If you begin to feel overwhelmed, that is perfectly normal and you may absolutely tell the claims adjuster that you will need a short amount of time to consider any offer. If they try to pressure you by saying you only have twenty-four hours or that they need an answer right now, firmly reiterate that you need time to consider the offer and schedule a time you will contact them again.
It may be worth calling on the legal representation you met with earlier to discuss the offer you received. If you are able to come to a satisfactory agreement with the claims adjuster that you feel is an acceptable amount, negotiations may end here. If, however, the final offer simply isn’t acceptable…
Step 7: Speak With Legal Representation. If you’ve exhausted yourself trying to negotiate, but the at-fault party’s insurance simply won’t offer an amount that helps to cover your medical and other costs, it may be time to call in the legal representation you might have spoken with earlier, or to schedule a consultation to explore your options moving forward.
If you’re looking into filing a Personal Injury lawsuit and would like to know more about the process, give Bluestein Attorneys a call at (803) 779-7599 or contact us online. Our Personal Injury team has experience with dog bites, defective products, medical malpractice, wrongful death, automobile accidents, and more.