You don’t necessarily have to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation after an auto accident. In fact, navigating the claims process with an insurance company is typically the first thing you’ll do.
- What should you expect from the insurance claims process?
- How can you make sure that you get a fair settlement?
- What are your options if you don’t like the offers you’ve received from an insurer?
These are all important questions. Los Angeles car accident attorney Sherwin Arzani break down the process of filing a claim with an insurance company and explain how you can maximize your recovery.
- 1 Negotiating a Settlement With an Insurance Company
- 2 Step 1: Gather Information Needed For Your Claim
- 3 Step 2: File Your Personal Injury Claim
- 4 Step 3: Outline Your Damages and Demand Compensation
- 5 Step 4: Review Insurance Company’s First Settlement Offer
- 6 Step 5: Make a Counteroffer
- 7 Step 6: Hire a Personal Injury Attorney and Consider Legal Action
- 8 Need More Help?
Negotiating a Settlement With an Insurance Company
Here’s what you can expect when you decide to file a personal injury claim for damages with an at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Step 1: Gather Information Needed For Your Claim
The first thing you’ll need to do is gather information about your accident. Most importantly, you’ll need the at-fault driver’s insurance information. You can get the details you need from the other driver or from a copy of your accident report.
You’ll also need to collect routine information about your accident, including:
- Parties involved, and
- Injuries sustained.
Once you have all of this information in hand you can prepare to file your personal injury claim.
Step 2: File Your Personal Injury Claim
It’s important to contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company shortly after your accident. Many companies limit the amount of time you have to contact them following an accident. Some companies even restrict the claims period to 24 hours after a crash.
The purpose of the claim is to let them know that you have been injured by one of their insured drivers and intend to seek damages. Most companies allow you to submit a personal injury claim online. Others will accept your claim by phone or mail. When you file the claim be sure to include details about property damage and all personal injuries that you’ve suffered.
Once your claim is filed you’ll have to wait for a response from the insurance company. In most cases, you’ll be dealing with an insurance claims adjuster. The adjuster will send you a Reservation of Rights (ROR) letter. This letter simply acknowledges that your claim has been received and that the adjuster will be investigating the accident. The ROR will also explain that the insurance company is not accepting liability or fault at this point in time.
Step 3: Outline Your Damages and Demand Compensation
Once you’ve received the Reservation of Rights letter from the adjuster, you’ll have the opportunity to submit a demand letter. When should you submit this letter? It depends. It can help to wait until you have fully recovered or made significant strides in your recovery. This is because it will be easier to accurately identify your accident-related costs and losses. Projecting your costs and losses can make it more difficult to recover the money you deserve.
What should you include in your demand letter? This is your opportunity to explain what happened, present evidence to support your argument, and demand meaningful compensation. It’s important to be as detailed and thorough as possible about the extent of your injuries and costs you have incurred.
Provide itemized details about costs related to medical care, rehabilitation, nursing care, disability, lost wages, and property damage. When you add up these costs and expenses you’ll have calculated your “economic” or “special” damages.
Once you have calculated your economic damages you can assess your “general” or “non-economic” damages. These are awarded to compensate for things like pain and suffering or emotional trauma. These damages can be difficult to value. Assess your pain and then multiply your economic damages by a number between 2 and 5. The worse your injury, the higher your multiplier should be.
Step 4: Review Insurance Company’s First Settlement Offer
Once the insurance company receives your demand letter they will be required to respond. However, there is no requirement that they get back to you right away. They’ll probably blame any delay on the fact that the adjuster is still in the process of investigating your accident and claim. However, the truth is that they are likely just trying to test your patience and make you eager to accept any offer they extend.
It’s important to understand that insurance companies do not have your best interest at heart. They are profit-driven companies and will do everything to minimize any payout you receive. As a result, they will likely comb through your demand letter and come up with an offer that is far below what you are asking for.
How do they come up with their first settlement offer? They’ll assess your claim and try to look ahead to future litigation. What would a jury do if presented with this case? If the insurance company doesn’t think you’ll win in court, they’ll be inclined to extend a very low offer.
They’ll support their offer by saying:
- You’re asking too much for the type of injury you’ve sustained
- You have not provided sufficient proof of your costs
- You have overestimated the value of your disability or lost wages, or
- You’ve requested more than the maximum allowable amount under the insured’s policy.
The insurance company’s first settlement offer will probably be insulting to you. The chances of it covering the full extent of your accident-related costs are slim-to-none. However, you may feel pressured into accepting that lowball offer. Why? The insurance adjuster will use manipulative tactics that play on your emotions.
They may say that this is a one-time deal that expires in 24-hours. They may imply that you’re partially to blame for the accident and say that you’re lucky to get an offer, at all.
It’s important to understand that accepting the insurance company’s first offer can be dangerous. When you accept, you’ll be asked to sign a waiver. This waiver will prevent you from pursuing any additional compensation related to this accident. As a result, you’ll be stuck with the limited amount of money the insurance company offered.
Step 5: Make a Counteroffer
You have the right to reject the insurance company’s first settlement offer by proposing a counteroffer of your own. You can either double down and demand the amount(s) you initially requested or meet them somewhere in the middle. Showing that you are open to negotiations will typically work in your best favor.
Your counteroffer should emphasize the extent of your injuries and the amount of suffering you have experienced because of the at-fault driver. Make it very clear that you are serious about recovering a fair and meaningful settlement offer. Their insured driver has hurt you and you are demanding the compensation you deserve.
Step 6: Hire a Personal Injury Attorney and Consider Legal Action
The insurance company will respond to your counteroffer. It doesn’t happen very often, but they may agree to accept your offer. This will likely be the case if they suspect that you would be successful if the cases were litigated. Most times, however, the insurance company will either reject your proposal or extend a counteroffer of its own.
The insurance company may be willing to negotiate a bit, but at some point they will extend a final offer. When this happens, it’s important to identify whether or not you’ve gained any ground. Has the insurance company made you a better offer? Have they agreed to you an amount that will cover all of your costs and expenses? If so, accepting the final offer after some back-and-forth may not be a terrible thing. However, never accept a low offer just to get something rather than nothing. You always have the option of hiring an attorney and filing a personal injury lawsuit.
When you are not satisfied with an insurance company’s offer, you have the right to take legal action. Hiring an attorney and threatening to file a personal injury lawsuit can sometimes be enough to scare an insurance company into extending a reasonable settlement. Even if they don’t, you’ll still have the opportunity to have a skilled legal advocate fight for compensation on your behalf. This will significantly increase the chances of maximizing your financial recovery.
Need More Help?
Have you been injured in a Los Angeles accident? If another driver is to blame you have the right to seek compensation from their insurance company. Navigating an insurance claim can be difficult, but you can be successful if you are strong, patient, and motivated. You can also help your claim by consulting with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney. If you have any questions about recovering compensation after an accident, do not hesitate to contact Citywide Law Group for help. Call us today to schedule your free case evaluation.