There are many questions you are likely to have after a car accident – not the least of which concerns a potential settlement. If you were not at fault for the crash, the other driver’s insurance company will soon be in contact with you. During this time, it is important to practice smart negotiation tactics to maximize your damage recovery. Here are three tips from experienced attorneys in Texas:
Know Who Is on Your Side
First and foremost, learn about the job and duty of the insurance claims adjuster. This is the person you will speak to if an insurance company contacts you regarding settlement negotiations after an accident. The adjuster may also carry the title of claims representative, claims specialist, or independent claims analyst. This person works for the insurance company or a third party, not for you. It is the adjuster’s job to minimize the amount of time and money it takes to settle a claim. This means that the adjuster will likely try to pressure you into a fast settlement, and offer less than your case might actually be worth.
It is good practice to never give a statement over the phone to an insurance claims adjuster. The adjuster and company could use your statement against you in the future if your claim goes to court. You can give information about your accident but stick only to the facts. Do not speculate as to fault or damage amounts at this juncture. It is entirely up to you to accept or deny an over-the-phone settlement offer. If you believe the offer is a good one and you want the issue to end quickly, you are welcome to accept the settlement. However, you may benefit from speaking first to a car accident attorney.
Learn the Value of Your Damages
It is important to have an idea of what your case is worth. There is no hard and fast rule regarding settlement amounts for accidents – it varies greatly depending on the severity of injuries, property damage, pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical bills, and lost wages the victim(s) may have incurred. Claims adjusters will look at all of these damages and others to determine the appropriate settlement amount. However, the adjuster does not know all the facts of the case as you do.
During negotiations with a claims adjuster, you are in the power seat. You have the most knowledge about your injuries, damages, and costs of the accident. Estimate the costs of your damages and come up with a minimum settlement amount you will accept. Keep in mind the rules of comparative negligence – if you were partially at fault for the accident, your amount of compensation will decrease proportionally with your percentage of fault. Do not accept an amount lower than your minimum.
Work with an Attorney
While it is possible to negotiate a settlement on your own, you may expose yourself to risks such as a claims adjuster taking advantage of you. You might underestimate the value of your damages, or accept a less-than-fair offer based on biased information the claims adjuster gives you about your case. An attorney works for you, not for an insurance company. Partnering with an attorney during settlement negotiations, mediation, and car accident trials can ensure that your rights are protected.
For example, an attorney can tell you whether or not to accept the first offer. Typically, the first offer is the lowest the claims adjuster will give, in the hopes of getting a quick “yes” from the accident victim. Refusing the first offer can result in renegotiations and a more appropriately priced second offer. Working with an attorney can give you many perks, and peace of mind during complex settlement negotiations.