Negotiating your personal injury settlement with an insurance company can be a harrowing experience best left in the hands of a skilled attorney. Still, there are some things you need to understand if you receive a low initial settlement offer, and how to respond to make a realistic counteroffer.
The initial settlement offer that comes from the insurance company can come at any time after you’ve filed your claim. Some personal injury claimants have to wait weeks to receive the offer, and some receive it rather quickly. Unfortunately, there is no set time in which the initial offer must be made.
After the insurance company has fully investigated your personal injury claim, they will make their first offer of settlement. Their investigation may include witness interviews, examination of the police reports and medical records pertinent to your case, and the demand letter you’ve forwarded to them. By the time the insurance adjuster presents an offer, they will feel confident about who was liable for the injuries you’ve suffered and property damage incurred, and what those are worth as a dollar amount.
At some point during negotiations, you may hear a reference to a dollar amount known as the “authority” of the claims adjuster. This is the highest amount that the adjuster is authorized by his or her superiors to offer you in settlement. The initial offer may be much lower than this figure, as insurance companies are not in business to pay out more than they absolutely have to for their claims. Of course, the claims adjuster will usually not be forthwith to the actual dollar amount of the “authority”, but they may try to use the term to try to make you believe that their offer is the highest offer they can give you. This is more often than not a bluff on their part.
The initial offer you receive from the insurance adjuster will almost always be a “lowball” offer. They may defend their low offer by claiming that you were partially at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, or that the injuries you suffered weren’t severe enough to warrant a greater amount. They may also question the amount of pain and suffering you experienced. They will aggressively defend their position of a low offer because this will often intimidate people into simply accepting the low offer. Do not ever accept the initial offer unless it is a fair offer.
We at Sevey, Donahue & Talcott understand how difficult it is to reject the offer, especially when you are already financially stressed. In may help you to view these tactics that the insurance adjuster uses to get you to accept a low offer as a test. If you pass this test by not settling for the low offer and making a counteroffer, you will likely be rewarded with a higher settlement amount. We reiterate: do not accept the initial offer unless it is a fair offer.
When you receive the initial settlement offer in writing, examine the reasons the insurance adjuster has given for the low settlement amount. Each of these points will become a part of your counteroffer letter, and you should respond to each and every one. Your counteroffer letter will reassert your original position described in your demand letter, as well as respond to each of their low-offer reasons in turn. Keep your emotions out of the letter and stick to facts, such as the extreme pain and suffering you have had to endure and the frustration and hassle of attending medical treatments. Be professional, courteous, and confident, and never attack the claims adjuster personally in your counteroffer letter.
To reject the initial offer, you will create a counteroffer and send it via mail to the insurance company claims adjuster. This letter should state:
Keep in mind that the acceptable amount of your counteroffer should be less than you originally requested in your demand letter. This will show the insurance company that you are willing to compromise. Don’t set your counteroffer too low, though. It should be slightly less than your original request, but not low enough to make the insurance adjuster accept immediately. In the same vein, consistently demanding too high an amount might get your claim rejected completely, with your only remaining course of action an expensive and time-consuming lawsuit.
Creating the proper counteroffer letter is something that a personal injury attorney does as a customary part of their job. They know how insurance companies and their claims adjusters work, and they are familiar with the manipulative tactics they use to get low offers accepted. If you have any questions at all about your initial demand letter or your counteroffer letter, contact a skilled, experienced personal injury attorney in your area.
Though it doesn’t happen often, if the insurance adjuster thinks that you have a very strong case against their insured (the at-fault party), their initial settlement offer may be fair. Don’t simply reject the initial offer because it is the first offer you’ve gotten. Measure what you’ve asked for in your demand letter against what the insurance adjuster has offered, and then you and your attorney can evaluate whether it is a fair offer. Accepting a fair initial offer can save you time and money, avoid a prolonged counteroffer battle, and help put this event behind you once and for all.
The process of settlement offers and counteroffers can be complex and overwhelming. We understand, and we want you to know that you can call us anytime to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. With one of our skilled attorneys on your side, you can rest assured you’ll receive fair compensation for the damages you’ve suffered. You can reach us by phone at (916) 788-7100 or through our online contact page.