Have to deal with another person’s insurer (or your own) after an accident? Here are some tips to ensure you get the best possible reward amount…
Being knowledgeable about insurance claims doesn’t automatically mean you will be a good negotiator. If you or a loved one were recently involved in an auto accident and now you’re desperately trying to get the best possible results from an insurance adjuster, it’s vital that you clearly articulate your concerns. Doing so can make all the difference between a fast resolution of your claim and an unnecessarily long litigation process.
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the insurance adjuster who is causing the problem. Other times, the claims process is delayed because of unproductive negotiation styles, tactics, and execution.
In this article, we’ll take a look at these complications in detail.
If you’ve run into a wall while trying to negotiate a fair insurance settlement after your accident, or you have questions about the negotiation process, we encourage you to reach out to our knowledgeable and experienced Atlanta car accident lawyers. We know what it takes to secure the best possible outcome, and we can make sure you receive exactly what you deserve — and not a penny less.
Unproductive negotiation styles
Approaching negotiation from the wrong angle will not get you anywhere. Here are a couple examples of unproductive negotiation styles that you should avoid when negotiating with insurers:
1. The overly aggressive approach
It’s nearly impossible to find a book on “How to Negotiate” that doesn’t have a chapter on the importance of rapport. The rapport between the insurance adjuster and yourself can, at times, be the difference-maker between a quick resolution of your claim and a complete communication breakdown.
In most insurance claims, the claimant and the adjuster must communicate and work together, sometimes repeatedly so. To disregard the importance of rapport by way of emotional displays and personal insults is simply counterproductive. Such displays can rapidly shut down opens lines of communication that are needed for effective communication to take place.
This is not to say there isn’t a place and time to tell the insurance adjuster that you are considering getting an attorney. Nor are we saying that you shouldn’t argue your points passionately. What we are saying is this:
Rapport is a fundamental component of healthy communication.
When rapport is not being utilized to your advantage and is disregarded wholesale, you are losing a vital tool that can help you resolve your claim quickly and effectively.
Keep in mind that most adjusters are treated as “the bad guy” before they have a chance to prove otherwise. A friendly working relationship may impact more than you might suspect. Disagreements are bound to happen, but treating the adjuster with respect and hearing them out could serve you well in the end. Being nice may cause them to be more flexible.
2. The freestyle approach
We could also call this style the “unprepared approach.” Claimants who go this route often feel they know enough about insurance to resolve the claim by the strength of their own knowledge and experience. The freestyle person knows what they know, and that’s enough. There is no deep investigation of facts. There is no real plan. This approach leans on the two-pronged philosophy of they hit me and therefore they owe.
The primary problem with the freestyle approach is that the insurance adjuster is going to be able to tell, pretty quickly, that you haven’t reviewed everything thoroughly. As soon as the adjuster detects this, they are going to take full advantage.
Adjusters commonly think: I don’t have to know everything there is to know about a claim. I just need to know more than the person on the other end of the phone.
There is no doubt about it: you must be solidly prepared. No freestyling. Dig into the facts of your claim and make a plan. Think outside the box. List all the strengths and weaknesses you can think of. Call it like it is and know how you will respond to weaknesses in your claim.
Remember, your weaknesses are the other sides’ strengths. Stay prepared and have all the information related to your claim instantly ready and accessible in case the adjuster calls you unexpectedly. If you do this, you will be much more prepared the next time you talk to the insurance adjuster.
Ineffective negotiation tactics
In addition to using the wrong approach, attempting to influence the outcome through bad tactics can do more harm than help. Here are 3 common insurance negotiation tactics that don’t typically achieve the results the claimant desires:
1. Playing the numbers game
Being fixated on “dollar figures” and refusing to discuss the facts that support those “dollar figures” will reduce your chances of securing the best possible outcome. Even if you do obtain a settlement, you are still missing opportunities to emphasize your side’s strengths by arguing evidence that demonstrates the high value of your claim. Also, by arguing facts over dollars, you are exposing the weaknesses of the other side.
By taking a little extra time to argue facts, you are potentially bringing up points that were missed by the adjuster. If the adjuster missed them, they were not part of the adjuster’s request for authority to their supervisor.
You should never assume that just because an insurance adjuster is supposed to know all the facts of a claim that they actually do.
There are lots of reasons for this.
- First, claims are often shuffled from one adjuster to the next because of turnover. When a new adjuster takes over the claim, they are trying to get caught up on all the facts of your case.
- Second, poor documentation on the front end of the claim by the initial adjuster contributes to the new adjuster’s confusion.
- Third, the sheer magnitude of claims that the average adjuster is trying to manage contributes to unintended errors and omissions.
Therefore, if you make good arguments regarding the facts, the handling adjuster will sometimes, to their embarrassment, have to resubmit their request for authority to their manager. But, if you are arguing “numbers only,” this is never going to happen. Drop the “numbers only” approach.
2. Using “belief” as an argument
Arguing your belief about the value of your claim isn’t a valid argument. This isn’t to say that you are not picking up something, intuitively. In other words, if you suffered a fractured bone because of another driver’s negligence, you may honestly have no idea what the true value of that kind of injury is supposed to be. But as you reflect on the adjuster’s offer to settle, you know that ain’t it.
You are probably right.
The offer is offensive and inappropriately low. But repeating your beliefs about the value is very close to arguing “numbers only.” As with the “numbers only” approach, you are never going to effectively argue for your belief of an injury claim’s value with no reasons included that support that belief.
In short, a belief without a reason gives the adjuster no reason to believe it.
Keep in mind that it’s the adjuster’s job to settle your claim. Provide the adjuster with good evidence and rational arguments. If you can help them get your claim off their desk, they will secretly thank you for it. If you support your beliefs with evidence, there is an increased chance that the insurance adjuster will request more authority from their manager so that they can resolve the matter with you. Make a believer out of the adjuster using solid objective evidence and good reasoning.
3. Rushing the process
Another variation of the “numbers only” style is when the frustrated and impatient claimant hastily demand from the adjuster: “Just give me your top offer.” Interestingly enough, this approach not only refuses to discuss facts but also refuses to discuss numbers.
In the context of negotiating with the insurance adjuster, it’s quite normal to eventually come to an impasse where you finally ask the adjuster for their top offer. However, to jump to this demand out of the starting gate is problematic for several reasons.
First, just because you asked for the adjusters “top offer” doesn’t mean you are going to hear it. No rule or law says they must comply with your request. Ironically, asking the adjuster to do this may cause them to respond to your request with a settlement offer that is just shy of their top number. By quickly jumping to the “top offer” approach, the adjuster is more tempted to hold back a little bit than if several offers have been extended previously.
Keep in mind, not only does this tactic save the insurance company money, it also looks good in the insurance adjuster’s performance review when they can show their supervisor that they settled your claim for less than the settlement authority granted to them.
If you let the negotiation process breathe, the adjuster will typically give you an honest answer about their top offer.
You should know that the insurance adjuster, as a matter of process, is typically going to have some predictable moves when they negotiate. For starters, they will increase in decreasing amounts (meaning each offer is a slightly lower increased amount). This is good for you to see because it shows you where they are heading with their top offer. If you demand nothing but the “top offer,” you will likely miss out on how they view your claim’s value range.
Moral of the story:
Don’t rush the process. Negotiate with the adjuster and don’t jump to “just give me your top offer.”
Poor negotiation execution
Even if you avoid the common mistakes when it comes to negotiation style and tactics, failing to execute the proper steps when seeking a payout or settlement can derail your entire claim. Here are 3 common mistakes we see people make during the negotiation execution phase:
Call the insurance adjuster at reasonable intervals of time, but not too often. In addition to keeping you apprised of how your claim is progressing, regular calls also help the adjuster remember that he or she needs to deal with your claim promptly.
Sometimes, a claimant will overcorrect and call the adjuster every other day. Understand that the adjuster is simply unable to do things that fast. Conversely, not calling the adjuster enough is equally problematic. Ineffective execution by way of procrastination usually starts out small in the beginning stages of a claim and then grows over time.
In the beginning, you and the adjuster may be doing a lot. But as the dust begins to settle, the adjuster may have only 1 or 2 things they are waiting on from you. It could be the medical authorization that you never returned, or the lost wage affidavit you never filled out, or even the phone call you never returned. The list could go on and on.
Claims are no fun. So, the temptation is to just “put it off” for another day. But as we know, this is the heartbeat of procrastination. If you wait too long before responding to the adjuster with what they need, the whole process starts to become even more difficult.
Remember, the statute of limitations is going to end at some point.
Consider this example:
After procrastinating for weeks, you finally respond to the adjuster. They evaluate your claim and come back to you with an incredibly low number, arguing that they are suspicious that your injury existed previously. They tell you that you can take their last settlement offer or they are going to have to order all of your medical records from the past 5 years to ensure you didn’t have this injury before. You were hoping to resolve this matter without having to hire an attorney. But now you see that this is probably not going to be the case. You wish you had responded more proactively to the adjuster in the beginning so that you could at least have known sooner that you were going to need an attorney’s help.
When it comes to how you handle a claim on your own, begin with the end in mind.
Intentionally and purposefully give your full attention to the claims process and the time needed to do so. In the world of claims, procrastination is arguably one of the most common forms of poor execution. Therefore, create a standard or goal for yourself (weekly and monthly) so that you aggressively address all things requested by the insurance adjuster — no more procrastination!
2. Stalling out
A close cousin of procrastination is stalling out. Procrastination usually occurs in the middle of the claims process. However, stalling out happens more often toward the end of the claim in the settlement negotiation process.
When the negotiation process starts, you should keep the ball rolling. Letting offers from the insurance company sit with no response from you can hurt the negotiation process more than you know. If you wait a long time to discuss the claim with your adjuster, they are going to have difficulty remembering some of the finer points of your last discussion. Even worse is when they can’t even recall which claim you are calling about.
While you will probably remember everything about your last conversation, realize that the average insurance adjuster is managing almost 200 claims at any given time. Had you called a day or two after the last discussion with the adjuster, the adjuster’s memory would probably have been different.
In cases where the stakes are high (severe injuries and high medical bills), it’s especially important not to leave long gaps of time between discussions with your adjuster. When too much time goes by, the momentum is lost that once existed in the negotiation process.
More often than not, stalling out begins when you are “put off” by the adjuster’s low offer. You are caught between wanting to settle the claim and knowing you are probably going to have to hire an attorney. You aren’t sure what to do, so you just sit on the situation for a long time and do nothing.
The key to solving the problem of stalling out is simple. Don’t stop.
If you’re planning to resolve your claim yourself, persevere so that the adjuster knows exactly which claim you are calling about every time you call. Have a mindset of obsessively doing everything you possibly can to resolve your claim.
In the context of life’s competing priorities, don’t keep putting this aside. If you aren’t making any productive moves toward resolution with the insurance adjuster, this is probably an indicator that you need to hire legal representation to move things along for you.
3. Failing to strike when the proverbial “iron” is hot
As you negotiate your claim toward a settlement, you may begin to get the feeling that the adjuster is, for lack of a better expression, starting to finally “hear you out.” You’ve argued using verifiable facts and good reason. Suddenly, there’s an odd silence on the other end of the phone. The insurance adjuster takes a moment to ask you a few more questions and then tells you that they are going to talk to their manager.
What does this mean?
The proverbial iron is hot, and now is the time to strike!
You absolutely cannot let this opportunity grow cold. By whatever means, make sure that you are constantly staying in contact with the adjuster going forward. Keep in mind that adjusters have a process they all must adhere to. That being said, the adjuster may need time to get back to you.
Meanwhile, take this time to discuss the likelihood of settlement with your family and those close to you so that everyone is on the same page. It’s common for there to be some last-minute disagreements inside of a family unit over what should happen in a settlement agreement with the insurance company.
Once you’re completely ready for the final follow-up conversation with the insurance adjuster, try to seek as much agreement and conclusion as you can with the adjuster while they are on the phone with you.
Remember, adjusters can be very difficult to reach again once they are off the phone. Have the adjuster confirm everything in writing to you. In doing so, you will have greater confidence that your claim is being settled for the maximum possible amount.