If your car was mashed up in an accident that was no fault of yours, you can expect the responsible party’s insurance company to eventually offer a settlement. The company arrives at a figure after evaluating the accident, the damage to the car and any medical reports. Because the claim adjuster works in the interest of the insurance company, the amount offered for settlement may be less than fair. If you are not satisfied, you should reject the offer and negotiate a mutually beneficial settlement.
Gather as much information as you can to document your losses and support your case. For instance, obtain statements from any witnesses, request a copy of the police report, evaluate the damage to the car and get an estimate for repairs or replacement. Also determine the cost of your medical treatment and the cost of any time missed from work.
Calculate the total cost of all the factors affected by the auto accident, such as medical bills, lost wages and auto repair, and increase this amount by about 20 percent to 25 percent. A claim that is too high or too low can put you at a disadvantage. Insurance companies typically offer the lowest possible settlement amount when it is obvious that the claimant is uninformed.
Determine the minimum amount you will accept. Use this amount as a guide but do not share this information with the claim adjuster.
Write a formal letter to decline the insurance company's initial offer. The letter should detail the facts of the accident and your injuries and include your request for a settlement in the amount you have calculated. Include copies of your supporting documents in with the letter.
Wait for the insurance company to contact you. This begins the negotiations, which, from this point, typically happen over several phone calls. The company will make a counteroffer for a much lower amount than you proposed. You may accept the offer, if it is reasonable, or respond with a counter proposal that is lower than your original amount but higher than the company's proposal.
Complete the negotiations. The process could last several days, until both parties reach a mutually agreeable figure. Be sure to get the settlement offer in writing before accepting any compensation. If the company’s final offer still seems unfair, you can take the case to court.
Wait for the judge to determine a settlement, if the case goes to court. The judge will make a decision after examining the facts. There is no guarantee that the amount will be in your favor. However, in some cases, you may file an appeal if you are not satisfied with the settlement.
- Insurance companies usually have the upper hand in negotiating a settlement when the self-representing claimant is inexperienced and uninformed. An experienced insurance lawyer can help evaluate the initial offer and negotiate a better settlement from the insurance company in a shorter amount of time.
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