If you have been injured in an accident that resulted from the negligence or reckless actions of another party, you are most likely dealing with an insurance adjuster in pursing compensation for your injuries. The adjuster may represent the insurer for the responsible party, or they may represent your own insurer in cases where the responsible party was uninsured or underinsured. The process of negotiating a full and fair settlement with the insurance company begins when you report the injury and initiate a claim.
As soon as you begin the process, you must remember that this is a negotiation, and that the insurance adjuster you are dealing with is working for the other side. You may be called early on by the adjuster with concern about your condition, best wishes, and assurances that you will be taken care of. This is all part of the negotiation, and the adjuster is trying to build rapport and earn your trust, so you will be more likely to accept their offer later on.
During a negotiation, it is helpful to understand the objectives of both parties. You are trying to obtain a full and fair settlement for your injuries, this is your goal, and this is also what you are legally entitled to. The insurance company, on the other hand, it trying to mitigate their losses by paying out as little as they can to settle the claim. You need to approach the process with these competing and contradictory interests in mind.
Steps to Negotiating a Personal Injury Settlement
While processes may vary slightly from one insurance company to another, the general steps to negotiating an injury settlement are as follows:
As mentioned earlier, the process starts when you file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurer (or your own insurer in the case of an uninsured or underinsured party). Most insurers allow you to file a claim over the phone, and some have online forms you can fill out and submit. This should be done as soon as possible as insurance companies typically have tight deadlines.
One of the first ways the insurance company will contact you after filing a claim is by sending you a “Reservation of Rights” letter. This letter typically states that they received your claim and will investigate it and be in contact with you about it. In the meantime, they are not admitting any liability for your injuries. Shortly before or after you receive this letter, you may also be called by the insurance adjuster to discuss the claim.
Once you have been treated for your injuries, you understand the extent of them, and you have either fully recovered or recovered as much as your doctor expects you to, you can calculate your overall damages and send a demand letter to the insurance company asking for compensation. This letter should lay out your case clearly and present your total damages (both economic and non-economic). Damages may include medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life. To ensure that you negotiate a full and fair settlement, it is important to understand how to accurately calculate the damages for your injury.
Shortly after you send your demand letter, you will receive a call or letter from the insurance adjuster either agreeing to pay the damages you have asked for, offering a lower amount, or denying the claim. Most of the time, they will try to claim that your injuries are not as severe as you are making them out to be, and offer you a lower amount, sometimes much lower. They may also try to claim that you are at least partially at fault for the injury, which, because of Alabama’s “contributory negligence” standard, they can use as a basis to deny your claim. This is where the real negotiations begin.
At this point, there may be several letters and phone calls back and forth with offers and counteroffers. Eventually, the insurance company may give you what they say is their “final settlement offer.” If this offer is fair and adequately compensates you for your injuries, you can accept their final offer. If the offer is unreasonable, then you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit in court to pursue fair compensation.
The Importance of Working with a Personal Injury Attorney
The negotiation process can be difficult and grueling. You need to be well-prepared, patient, and persistent to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion. This process can be especially challenging if you try to go it alone. Insurance adjusters are professionals who are trained negotiators, and this gives them an inherent advantage going in. You may also have difficulty preparing a demand letter that accurately calculates damages. Finally, if you negotiate alone, an insurance adjuster will be fairly confident you are not going to take the case to court. And without the threat of litigation, the insurer does not have nearly as much incentive to offer a fair settlement.
If you or a loved one has been injured because of the reckless actions or omissions of another party, it is important to at least speak with an experienced attorney, so you understand your rights and legal options. At Burge and Burge, we have extensive experience with all types of personal injury cases, and we have a strong track record of success obtaining just compensation on behalf of our clients. We are skilled litigators and strong negotiators. Whenever possible, we seek to negotiate full and fair settlements for our clients. If the other side is not willing to be reasonable, however, we are ready and able to aggressively advocate for your rights and interests at trial and upon appeal.
For a free consultation with one of our seasoned Alabama attorneys, call us today at 205-251-9000, or you may send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.