If you find yourself involved with a personal injury settlement, dealing with insurance companies can be challenging and harrowing.
While it is advisable to leave litigation in the hands of a skilled lawyer, you should still familiarize yourself with the mechanics of personal injury settlement offers. This will help you to avoid falling foul of lowball initial settlement offers, and it will also help you to respond with a realistic counteroffer.
You can expect an initial offer from an insurance company at any stage after you file your claim. Sometimes, claimants receive this offer in days, while others wait weeks or months. There is no rigid timeframe in which insurance companies need to make initial offers.
Once the insurance carrier has thoroughly investigated your personal injury claim, they then make an initial offer of settlement. Their case investigation typically includes examining the following:
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Demand letter
When the insurance company’s adjuster presents you with an offer, they feel confident about liability for your injuries, as well as what those injuries are worth in terms of a dollar amount.
Why Do Adjusters Make Low Initial Settlement Offers?
In most cases, the initial offer you receive from the insurance adjuster will be low, sometimes insultingly low.
Often, insurance carriers defend a lowball offer by questioning liability, perhaps alleging you were at least partially culpable. Alternatively, they may suggest that the injuries you sustained do not warrant a higher amount, or they may question how much pain and suffering you experienced.
Whatever tactics the insurance carrier employs, expect them to aggressively defend the position of this low offer.
Unless it is demonstrably fair, never accept this initial offer.
Variables That Influence Injury Compensation
The following factors impact the overall value of the compensation you will receive for your injuries:
- Severity of injuries and property damage: The severity and extent of your injuries play a significant role in the overall value of your personal injury case. Beyond medical bills, the insurance company also assesses the permanence of any injuries. If those injuries cause scarring or disability, the value of your claim will be higher than a claim with less significant, less permanent injuries. Property damage will also be assessed if relevant, often applicable to road traffic accidents.
- Limits on insurance policies: Most personal injury cases resolve through settlements with insurance companies. The total value of your claim will be impacted by the total policy limit of the insurance carrier. If the insurance policy does not cover your total losses, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit. This enables you to directly pursue compensation from the assets of the party at-fault.
- Overall medical bills: You should not settle your case until you have attained maximum medical improvement from your injuries. You need to understand the full scope of all medical bills before agreeing to any form of settlement.
- Available evidence: You need sufficient evidence to prove the overall value of the claim if you want to obtain the level of compensation you deserve.
How to Reject Low Personal Injury Settlement Offers
If you receive a low initial written offer of settlement, examine the reasons the insurance adjuster has provided for this reduced amount.
You will use each of these points as part of your counteroffer letter, and you should address every point in turn.
Lead your counteroffer letter by reasserting your original position outlined in the initial demand letter then respond to the low-offer reasons one by one.
When drafting a counteroffer letter, leave emotion aside, sticking to the plain facts, particularly the pain and suffering you have endured as a result of your accident and injuries. Keep the tone professional and courteous while remaining confident in your position. Refrain from making any personal insults attacking the claims adjuster.
The counteroffer letter you mail to the insurance company’s claims adjuster should state all of the following:
- You will not be accepting the initial settlement offer
- The reasons why you believe you should receive a larger settlement amount
- Responses to each of the insurance carrier’s reasons for a low offer
- The higher amount you would accept
You should ensure that any counteroffer is less than the amount you requested in your initial demand letter. This will show you are prepared to compromise. Don’t set the counteroffer too low, it need only be slightly less than your original request. Do not lowball yourself at this stage of proceedings.
If you retain an experienced personal injury attorney, they can take care of all this correspondence on your behalf.
Moving Beyond Low Settlement Offers
You should avoid responding emotionally to a lowball offer for a personal injury case.
Beyond this, you should not start worrying that a low initial offer represents the best the insurance company will do.
What is key when presented with a low offer is to remain professional and courteous, even if you don’t feel like behaving that way. Souring your relationship with the other parties will do nothing to improve the resolution of your case. Indeed, things you say and do could even be sued against you should you decide to try renegotiating their offer.
Understand that the insurance company is using this initial offer as the lowest amount they feel they could get away with. View a low offer as a starting point for negotiations. This will help you to more smoothly move beyond a lowball offer to pursue the compensation you deserve.
The Settlement Authority of The Adjuster
The highest amount the insurance adjuster is authorized to offer you in settlement is known as the authority of the adjuster.
Even if you directly ask the insurance company about this settlement authority, they may not be transparent with the actual dollar amount of this authority.
Accepting Reasonable Offers
In some cases, the insurance adjuster may feel you have a very solid case against their insured party. If so, they could make a fair initial settlement offer. This is unlikely, but possible.
Don’t reject an initial offer purely because it is the first offer. Assess what you requested in your initial demand letter against the offer of the insurance adjuster. You can then liaise with your attorney to determine whether the offer is fair.
Accepting a fair initial settlement offer will save you time and money, prevent you becoming embroiled in a protracted counteroffer battle, and could put an end to the matter conclusively. You should only accept the offer if you and your attorney feel it is fair, though.
What To Do If Negotiations Stall
If you find the insurance company stalls proceedings, you can fight back.
Remain persistent in your approach. Call and email the claims adjuster frequently. Request for progress reports with specifics.
If you still find no improvement, consider writing a formal demand letter. This document states what you feel constitutes a fair settlement with a basis for this valuation included.
If the insurance company defending your personal injury claim is stalling, it is vital that they believe you will follow up by filing formal proceedings if they do not process the claim expediently.