It might come as some surprise, but most personal injury cases settle—eventually. When it's time to negotiate a personal injury settlement, the other side's insurance adjuster might make a settlement offer that is unreasonably low. So, what's next?
The first thing to know here is that insurance adjusters have the insurance company's interests in mind. They're not looking out for your best interests. So a first (often unreasonably low) offer may simply be a negotiating tactic to gauge whether you understand the value of your claim, and your willingness to fight for more. In any case, the adjuster likely hopes that you'll accept the low offer now just to get the process over with.
Rather than accepting a too-low offer, take this opportunity to ask the adjuster to share their reasoning behind the offer. If you already sent a demand letter, it's time to request a detailed response to each of the arguments or assertions you made in that letter, including:
Once the adjuster provides the basis for their low offer (sometimes over the phone, but preferably in writing), you might feel any number of things—anger, anxiety, outrage—but try to keep things in perspective. Remember:
Your next move is to write a brief letter responding to each of the reasons the adjuster mentioned as justification for their low offer. Below is an example of what this kind of letter might look like.
(This letter is excerpted from How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Attorney Joseph Matthews (Nolo), an all-in-one guide to handling an insurance claim after any kind of accident or injury, including strategies for dealing with an insurance company that refuses to make a fair offer.)
123 Peach Street
Denver, CO 00000
June 15, 20xx
Rocky Mountain Insurance Company
1000 Throughway Boulevard
Denver, CO 00000
Re: Your Insured, Richard Leonard
Claimant: Angel Ruiz
Claim No.: 93-HQ1234
Date of Accident: January 13, 20xx
Dear Mr. Rubinion:
In our telephone conversation today, you relayed the basis for Rocky Mountain Insurance Company's offer to settle my claim for $1,000. However, none of the reasons you gave for such a low offer is supported by the facts.
You claimed that I was as much at fault in the accident as your insured. You assert that I had a duty to avoid hitting him because he was already in the intersection when our cars collided. This assertion is not supported by the facts. Indeed, the police report indicates that your insured had a yield sign, and I had the right of way. Thus, I did not have a duty to avoid hitting your insured and am not at fault for the accident.
In addition, you claimed that I suffered "only a soft tissue" injury, which did not justify either the physical therapy I underwent or my settlement demand. If you look at the record of my X-rays, you will see a narrowing of cervical vertebrae. Therefore, your characterization of my injury as "minor" and as "soft tissue" is completely unjustified.
Because of the slight possibility of some minor comparative negligence in the accident, however, I am willing to reduce by five percent my settlement demand of $15,000. Therefore, I demand the sum of $14,250 as settlement of the claim.
Please provide me with Rocky Mountain's response within 14 days after you receive this letter.
Whatever the reason for the adjuster's low-ball offer, it's not a good idea to significantly lower the amount you originally asked for (if you sent a demand letter early on, for example). Instead, a more sound negotiating tactic is to make a small downward adjustment to your previous offer, just as our hypothetical claimant Angel Ruiz does in the above example (reducing the original demand by five percent).
Learn more about settlement discussions with an insurance adjuster and get tips on negotiating a fair personal injury settlement.
The best way to get an insurance adjuster to take you and your claim seriously is to escalate things by filing a personal injury lawsuit, or at least raise the prospect of taking the matter to court. The last thing the insurance adjuster wants is to have to defend a lawsuit filed against their insured. So a credible threat of going to court might result in a more reasonable settlement offer from the adjuster. But you might not be in the best position to know whether proceeding to the lawsuit stage will be worth the time and hassle.
In either of these scenarios (no response from the adjuster, or stalled settlement talks) if you haven't already done so, now is the time to discuss your situation (and your options) with an experienced legal professional.
A personal injury attorney will take an objective look at your claim, examine the insurance adjuster's settlement offer(s) and related correspondence, and formulate the most effective strategy for your case going forward. If a lawsuit seems like a sound move, a lawyer will handle the big and small details of the court process, while putting your best case together.
Learn more about when you need a lawyer's help with a personal injury claim, and how to find the right lawyer for you and your case. And if you're ready to reach out to a legal professional now, you can use the features right on this page to connect with a personal injury lawyer in your area.