If you or a loved one has suffered an injury and it was the fault of another party, you deserve to be fully compensated for your losses. Unfortunately, the process of recovering compensation is almost never smooth. It is extremely rare for the party responsible for a personal injury to walk up to you and write you a check to cover your medical bills, time you missed from work, and compensate you for all the trouble the injury has put you and your family through.
In a large number of cases, the party that caused the injury will try to deny that they were at fault, or at the very least try to pin some of the blame on you. And most of the time, you will not be dealing with them anyway, you will usually be dealing with their insurer.
Negotiating a settlement with an insurance adjuster is never easy. Insurance adjusters handle claims for a living, and they are professional negotiators. From the outset, it is important to remember that this is a negotiation, and that your interests are not aligned with the interests of the insurance adjuster.
You are looking for full and fair compensation for your injuries, and since finances are most likely pretty tight, you want the case settled fairly quickly. The adjuster would also like to settle quickly, but their ultimate goal is to mitigate their losses by paying out as little as possible to get the case off their books.
The initial approach of many insurance adjusters is to try to convince you that they are really “on your side”. They often call within a day or two after the accident to ask how you are doing and wish you well. They will usually also give assurances something to the effect of “don’t worry, we’re going to take care of you” or “everything is going to be okay”. They may even go so far as to try to dissuade you from hiring a lawyer. You may hear something like, “you are totally free to hire an attorney, but whether you do or not, it won’t change your settlement amount.”
These tactics are designed to build rapport and give you the impression that the claims adjuster is looking out for your best interests. The hope is that you won’t even consider seeking outside legal counsel, because you believe they are going to take care of you. The adjuster is also hoping you will let your guard down and say something that could be used against you later on. Be ready for these tactics and keep in mind throughout that this is a negotiation between two parties with conflicting interests.
Negotiating a Full and Fair Settlement in Your Injury Case
Settling an accident injury case can take a few days up to several months or longer, depending on how you handle the negotiations and what you are willing to settle for. The first offer by the insurance company is likely to be much lower than what your claim is worth. Their hope is that you will be motivated to take the quick money and put this incident behind you.
It is almost never a good idea to accept the initial offer from the other side’s insurer. If you are handling the negotiations on your own, politely decline the offer and prepare a demand letter with a counter offer that reflects what your claim is really worth. When you calculate the value of your claim, be sure to factor in both economic and non-economic losses.
Economic losses are those you can assign a dollar figure to; such as property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity (if the injury was debilitating and you can no longer work). Non-economic losses are ways in which you have suffered that are difficult to quantify; such as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life.
Once you send your counter offer, a series of back-and-forth negotiations will likely ensue. At this point, the insurer may try to poke holes in your claim by saying you are not injured as badly as you claim or that their client is not totally at-fault.
If your injury occurred in Alabama, the insurer could use the state’s “contributory negligence” legal doctrine as a basis to deny your claim. For this reason, it is extremely important to never admit any type of fault to the other side or their insurer, because even if you are found to be 1% responsible for the incident, you could be barred from recovering compensation.
Negotiations may go back and forth for a while, and it is important to be patient during this process. One common tactic an insurer may use is to delay responding or even stop responding altogether. Bear in mind that Alabama has a two-year statute of limitations for which to file a personal injury lawsuit. Once that two years is up, you lose your ability to take the case to trial, which takes away a lot of leverage during the settlement negotiations.
How a Skilled Attorney Can Help with the Negotiation Process
Negotiating a full and fair settlement for your injury case can get complicated, and there are pitfalls that you could fall into that may cause you to lose out on any compensation at all. Because most people have never been through a settlement negotiation before, it is a good idea to at least talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer before the process begins.
During the initial consultation, an attorney can thoroughly review the case and advise you of your rights and legal options. If nothing else, this will give you the proper mindset and allow you to make more informed decisions as you begin negotiating with the insurance adjuster.
If you decide to have an attorney represent you, they will handle the legal process from A to Z, so you can focus on your recovery. Your attorney will negotiate directly with the insurance adjuster, putting their extensive experience to work toward obtaining a full and fair settlement. There are several ways your attorney can help during negotiations:
- Your attorney will properly value your claim based on a thorough investigation of the case and their in-depth knowledge of other cases like yours;
- Your attorney will advise you on whether or not the settlement offer and subsequent counter offers from the insurance company are fair;
- Your attorney can help fight a claim denial by your insurance company;
- Your attorney can bring in the testimony of expert witnesses (if needed) to help substantiate your claim;
- If the other side is unwilling to negotiate in good faith, your attorney can file a lawsuit to recover full damages in court. The proven ability and determination to litigate the case if necessary often encourages the other side to seek a reasonable settlement.
Contact the experienced Alabama personal injury attorneys at Jones & Associates today so you can begin the healing process and put our firm to work fighting for the damages you deserve. Contact our office at (334) 699-5599 or through our website contact form.