Let’s say you’re the injured victim of an accident which was caused by someone else’s negligence. It makes no difference whether it happened in a car wreck, from dangerous drugs, or you slipped and fell on a restaurant’s carelessly mopped floor. The insurance company which protects the negligent defendant is hoping to avoid a trial because they can’t be certain how a jury will react to this situation. And insurance companies fear what they cannot control.
The insurer will initially appear as friendly and motivated to settle the matter and tell you what they’re willing to pay to send you on your way with some money in your pocket. But it’s likely to be an awfully small amount compared to your mountain of medical bills, lost income because you can’t work, and your pain and suffering. So, what do you do other than express outrage at such a lowball offer, compared to true value of your claim if you go to court?
Lighten up: it’s Business – not Personal
The first thing a seasoned personal injury lawyer will tell you is to lose the attitude and think of this puny insurance company settlement offer as only the first step in a negotiation process or business deal -- because, in the end, that’s all it is. And the insurance company is hoping you’ll think with your emotions rather than your intellect. If you do, they’ve got you right where they want you – playing their game with their rules on their home court.
Insurance companies know the value of your total claim. They have rooms full of actuaries who can tell them to the penny how much it’s worth. They also have adjusters who claim they’re working on your behalf, when their job is actually to protect their employer. They record telephone conversations, ask loaded questions to trip you up (and get information to use against you at trial) and even tell you that what they offer is fair and all you’ll get, and they will discourage you from calling a lawyer.
Sometimes if you have to get your own insurance company involved to help pay some of your damages until the defendant’s insurer finally comes across, they too could become your adversary in the same fashion. Think of it: your insurance company taking all those premiums over the years and then when you need them, they’re not there for you. But that’s what insurers do: take in premiums and work like the dickens to avoid paying claims.
So Here’s How you Handle an Insurer if you’re an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
First, you would have investigated the accident from top to bottom, determined your necessary compensation, and chosen the lowest settlement you’re willing to accept. Then you would have created a demand package with a specific monetary amount – usually the payout limits of the defendant’s insurance policy. You would have considered the client's willingness to take the matter to trial. Then you would have sat back and played “Let’s Make A Deal.” So for awhile the two sides are in the offer/counter-offer phase of negotiations. And since everything is in writing, making your points deftly and diplomatically (but forcefully) works best at this point of the dispute.
If you have a solid claim, a firm commitment to play things out, and an understanding of typical insurance companies' tactics, time is on your side. In this kind of “irresistible force vs. immovable object” dispute, nine times out of ten, you – the immovable object - will come out on top.
Remember: You and your attorney are not fighting social injustice – just negotiating a business deal.