10 Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid
Negotiating a personal injury claim with an insurance company is a delicate process. If you make a mistake during the negotiation process with the claims adjuster, you can cause irreversible damage to your claim. This is one of the many reasons working with a personal injury lawyer offers accident victims the best chance at securing a fair settlement.
When discussing your personal injury claim with a claims adjuster or any other insurance company representative, keep these insurance settlement negotiation tips in mind.
Do not agree to give a recorded statement.
Unless you have a personal injury lawyer present to advise you, you should not agree to give the at-fault party’s insurance company a recorded statement. Insurance companies train their adjusters in interview taking, and the questions may be framed in a way to elicit a statement from you that may not be in your best interests.
Be honest with the insurance company.
Always be honest when talking to and providing information to the insurance company. There are legal requirements that you be honest in your dealing with insurance companies and visa versa.
Do not hand over your medical records too early in the negotiation process.
You should not sign any medical releases until you are nearing the end of your treatment. The claims adjuster does not need that information at the start of his or her investigation. Your medical condition may change over time, and you should give the claims adjuster the most complete and accurate picture of your medical condition possible. Once your treatment is almost complete, you can sign the medical releases necessary to obtain copies of your medical records. Then, you can calculate your special damages and pain and suffering demand with greater accuracy. This will help you write an effective demand letter.
Do not discuss any preexisting injuries.
You should never discuss any preexisting injuries with the claims adjuster. If you admit that you had an injury prior to your accident, the claims adjuster may deny your claims or offer you a lower settlement by finding that your latest injury is merely an exacerbation of your previous one. Only a doctor can evaluate how your injuries relate to one another. Leave this to the experts.
Do not exaggerate your injuries.
Do not exaggerate the nature of your injuries. As you can imagine, claims adjusters hear all kinds of stories from personal injury claimants. They can usually tell when someone is exaggerating the extent of their injuries. Allow the truth to speak for itself. The claims adjuster will be much more likely to trust you and ultimately agree to your settlement demand.
Do not let your guard down.
Claims adjusters are trained to engage personal injury claimants in informal discussions. Sometimes, claims adjusters do this so that you’ll let your guard down and they can draw damaging admissions from you. You should be polite to the claims adjuster, but not deferential. Stay on your guard at all times.
Do not think you have to answer every question.
When discussing your personal injury claim, you do not have to answer every question the claims adjuster asks. It is much better to decline to answer a question that you don’t know the answer to than to give the claims adjuster inaccurate information. What may seem like a simple mistake can come back to haunt you, or even destroy your personal injury claim. If you need help responding to questions from the claims adjuster, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer right away.
Do not use loaded terms.
There are certain terms you should avoid using when discussing your personal injury claim with the claims adjuster. One of these is “whiplash,” which is is a red-flag word for most claims adjusters. Although whiplash can be very painful and many people suffer whiplash after car accidents, your claims adjuster may think that you were not actually hurt in your accident and are grasping at straws. Do not discuss whiplash with the claims adjuster until you have been diagnosed by a medical professional.
In your initial discussions with the claims adjuster, you should also avoid using legal terms like “negligence” or “reckless.” These terms have technical definitions that you may not fully understand. For now, stick to the facts of what happened in your accident. Do not editorialize or make conclusions. Save this language for your demand letter, which is the document that lays out your case in persuasive language.
Do not give the claims adjuster unnecessary personal information.
You are under no obligation to give the claims adjuster your social security number, and you should consult with a personal injury attorney before you do so. Typically, the claims adjuster does not need to know your social security number to settle your personal injury claim. They will need to know that Medicare and Medicaid do not have any claims related to your personal injury claim. (A letter from Medicare and from Medicaid stating this is usually sufficient).
In addition, you should avoid giving the claims adjuster names or contact information for family members, friends, or colleagues who were not involved in the accident (witnesses to the accident, of course, are fair game). The claims adjuster does not need contact information for non-witnesses to settle your personal injury claim, and may try to speak with these individuals to determine whether you are trustworthy. Remember, you can refuse to answer a claims adjuster’s questions and decline to give him or her information. An attorney can help you understand which requests for information are valid.
Do not assume your claim will settle.
You should never assume that your personal injury claim will settle. Claims adjusters deny personal injury claims for a variety of reasons, some valid and others not (learn more about bad faith insurance tactics here). If settlement negotiations break down and you cannot secure a fair settlement, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit. You may have to repeat anything you say to the claims adjuster on a witness stand, in front of a jury. You should approach your claim as if you may ultimately have to file a personal injury lawsuit.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
If you have been hurt in an accident, hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer offers you the best chance of securing compensation for your injuries. An attorney can guide you through the settlement negotiation process and can help you determine whether filing a personal injury lawsuit is right for you. To learn more about hiring a personal injury lawyer, visit:
- Personal Injury Cases Requiring an Attorney
- Frequently Asked Questions about Hiring an Attorney
- Questions to Ask When Interviewing Attorneys
- Choosing an Attorney: The Professional Awards and Affiliations That Matter
Disclaimer: Information provided on this site is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always get a formal case evaluation from a licensed attorney if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.