The Personal Injury Negotiation Process and How it Works

Anyone who suffers injuries because of someone else’s negligence is entitled under the law in Colorado to be completely reimbursed for medical expenses, days lost from work, and all other expenses arising from the accident and injuries. Anyone seriously injured by negligence should probably discuss legal recourse – including a possible personal injury lawsuit – with an experienced Denver personal injury attorney. However, there are times when it makes more sense to negotiate directly with the insurance company.

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If you sustained only vehicle damage and no personal injury, or if your “injuries” were merely minor bruises and scrapes, contact the negligent party’s insurance company and fill out the forms necessary to make your claim. If the company doesn’t dispute your claim, and if you’ve completed the paperwork and provided documentation for your claim, negotiating may mean nothing more than several brief telephone chats and possibly an in-person meeting with a claims adjuster.

HOW DOES NEGOTIATING WITH INSURANCE COMPANIES USUALLY WORK?

Determine what the value of your claim is before you speak to the insurance company, and decide on the amount that you can settle for. This absolute bottom line amount is for you alone, and should never be disclosed. However, even before you contact the insurance company, decide what you believe your claim is worth, and determine a minimum settlement figure that you will be willing to accept. You know what you are willing to take, and the insurance adjuster knows how much the company is willing to pay. The negotiating process in these situations usually takes several discussions that typically go like this:

  • You ask for the highest amount that you believe is reasonable.
  • The insurance adjuster explains why that amount is too high. You might be told that some of your therapy was unneeded or that there’s still a question about liability.
  • You explain your response and perhaps offer a slightly lower figure than your original amount.
  • The adjuster at this point may make an even lower counteroffer – to see if you are in a hurry to settle.
  • You grant part of the adjuster’s criticisms of your claim and make another slightly lower demand.
  • The insurance adjuster slightly increases the company’s offer, and the two of you eventually come to a settlement amount.

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Negotiating with an insurance company – in many cases – is usually just that simple. Do not negotiate below your minimum acceptable amount. It may take more than one or two discussions with an adjuster to arrive at a settlement. Do not let yourself be hurried. Don’t be intimidated. If the insurance adjuster makes some genuine points that you haven’t thought about previously, you may need to adjust the amount that you’re claiming.

WHAT IF THE FIRST OFFER IS RIDICULOUS?

The initial settlement offer from an insurance company might be absurdly low, because the company wants to see how you will react or see if you can be intimidated. Ask the company what the reasons are behind such a low offer, arrange for a subsequent meeting or phone call, and consider what you’ve been told. Of course, if the company’s first offer is somewhere in the vicinity of reasonable, make a counteroffer just below the amount of your original claim. Good faith bargaining like this often quickly leads to an acceptable agreement.

You shouldn’t have to repeat all of the details of your claim every time you speak with the insurance company. Santa Rosa personal injury attorney Jeffrey Nadrich suggests identifying a couple of strong points; repeat and focus on them. If the party that injured you “blew through a red light” or if your pain was “agonizing,” re-emphasize that. If an injury has impaired your capacity and ability to care for your children, make sure the insurance company understands that they are victims too.

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When you jointly arrive at a final settlement amount, immediately verify it by writing a letter to the adjuster you spoke with. The letter should include the settlement figure, list the damages covered by the settlement, and specify a date when you expect to receive the settlement amount – and the accompanying paperwork – from the company. When an insurance company doesn’t act expeditiously, consumers in Colorado are entitled to hold that company liable for unfair settlement practices.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WHEN AN INSURANCE COMPANY FAILS YOU?

What Colorado law describes as “bad faith” happens when an insurance company does not honor its own commitments or handles your claim unfairly or negligently. When the victims of personal injury in Colorado cannot get an insurance company to meet its obligations, they may be able to file an insurance bad faith claim with the help of a Denver personal injury attorney. The bad faith practices of insurance companies may include:

  1. delaying by constantly asking for more information
  2. never offering more than a fraction of what a claim is worth
  3. providing only bogus or insufficient reasons for denying a claim

Sometimes all it takes to make an insurance company act is to retain an attorney with insurance bad faith experience. When your attorney helps you pursue an insurance bad faith claim, you may receive both the original settlement figure along with any other amount – such as your legal fees – ordered by the court. If you need to be compensated by an insurance company, you have legal rights. If you need to, take advantage of those rights.

Profits are essential. Obviously, making a profit is the reason insurance companies and every other type of company exists. Profits, however, must be earned rightly. No insurance company – or any other company – should be permitted to put profits ahead of obligations and the law. For many victims of negligence, when an insurance company denies a claim, it can mean real financial hardship. If you’ve been seriously injured in any kind of accident – that is, if you suffered more than a few minor scrapes and bruises – forget about handling the claim yourself, and obtain a personal injury attorney’s advice and services at once.

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With any serious, catastrophic, or disabling injury, do not even speak to an insurance adjuster, and do not sign any forms or documents without first obtaining an attorney’s insights and advice. If you sign something, you might be waiving your right to take any legal action against the insurance company in the future. It really is best in cases with injuries to let an experienced personal injury lawyer handle an insurance settlement negotiation on your behalf.

By: Dallas Norton

Dallas Norton, the founding partner of Norton & Bowers, has practiced law with a focus on personal injury since 1992. Mr. Norton has extensive Colorado roots including grade school in Arvada and high school in Denver. He earned his J.D. from Brigham Young University Law School in 1991. When working on behalf of clients, Mr. Norton draws upon his extensive background in psychology and human resources.