When it comes to personal injury, a lot of people think that Americans are sue-happy. The reality is that the vast majority of lawsuits are not personal injury cases. In fact, personal injury lawsuits make up less than 10% of all lawsuits.
Yet, that perception that people sue too often can make people take a settlement, even when settling your case right away isn’t the best approach. The reality is that you should only settle when it’s part of an overall negotiating strategy.
If you’ve never dealt with a settlement negotiation before, keep reading for five key things you should know before you agree to a settlement amount.
1. Have You Consulted a Lawyer?
Consulting a lawyer doesn’t commit you to anything. What a lawyer offers is a firm understanding of the law. They can tell you if your injuries will make for a good case.
If they think it will, it becomes a bargaining chip in your negotiations. Even a basic Internet search can reveal if lawyers are pursuing cases in a particular area. You can see a good example on this site.
2. Never Take the First Offer
While insurance companies theoretically exist to pay for things their policies cover, they also exist as businesses. Businesses pursue profit. Paying off claims cuts into their annual revenue.
That gives insurance companies a motive to low-ball settlement offers on the first pass.
3. Understand the Total Cost of Your Injuries
Insurance companies often press for a quick settlement because it lets them off the hook for future costs. That means you must understand exactly what your injuries will cost you in the long term.
Will you need years of physical therapy and ongoing medication? Will you suffer a permanent disability that will affect your career? wait until you know all or as much of the information as possible before you settle.
4. Play Up the Emotional Points
Remind the adjuster about powerful emotional factors that could play strongly with a jury. Are there pictures of a badly damaged vehicle or of your injuries. While these things don’t mean anything specific in compensation, they can make a big difference in what a jury might award as a settlement.
That can move an adjuster to make a better offer.
5. Get It In Writing
Never rely on a verbal agreement or a handshake deal with a claims adjuster. If you come to an agreement, write down all of the points of the agreement. Then, tell the adjuster to put it in writing and send it to you.
Locking in Your Negotiating Strategy
When deciding on your overall negotiating strategy, remember that the insurance company isn’t especially interested in your long-term well-being. They’re interested in paying out the smallest possible settlement as soon as possible.
That means you must look out for yourself by declining the first offer, knowing your long-term costs, and playing up the emotional points. If necessary, get a lawyer to help and always get agreements in writing.
Looking for more info or tips about legal proceedings? Check out the articles in our Law section.