How you act during settlement negotiations can go a long way toward making the process run smoothly and quickly, with a minimum of stress or aggravation for you, and with a satisfying settlement as the result. Here are some of the basic rules about dealing with a claims adjuster.
If you follow the steps mapped out elsewhere in this section on injury settlements, you will already be organized when you begin the negotiation process. Keep up the habits you’ve already developed.
For example, if you have a conversation with the adjuster, make a note of what was said. If either you or the adjuster have said that you will or will not do a certain thing, or that something is to occur by a certain date, write a confirming letter and send it to the adjuster (see a sample confirmation letter to get a sense of what to say.)
Keep a copy of everything you send. If you have agreed to provide the adjuster with information, do it promptly.
Although you may have already had to wait a considerable amount of time to get all your medical and income records, try not to be in too great a hurry to settle your claim. One of the tactics claims adjusters use is to make a low initial settlement offer and see if you are too impatient to continue negotiating. If you can stand to wait, do not jump at a first offer. Holding off for a little while often increases your settlement amount. After some time passes, it will be the adjuster who will want to settle your claim as soon as possible, and then you will be able to get the full value of your claim.
The flip side of being patient is being persistent. Don't let the adjuster sit on your claim. If the adjuster has said that he or she will do something -- make you another offer, or check with a supervisor -- get a specific date by which it will be done. Put everything agreed upon in a confirming letter, and when that date rolls around, call and politely demand a response. If you have asked for information or for a new settlement offer, set a reasonable deadline by which you would like the response. Don’t pester an adjuster by calling every day, but make sure the adjuster knows you are out there and that you will be regularly and thoroughly following up on your claim.
Be Calm and Straightforward
Insurance adjusters are overworked and underpaid, and they hear a lot of stories every day. They are also human, which means they don’t respond well to abuse or to hysterics. Even if you get an inconsiderate or unsympathetic adjuster, keep your cool and don’t get into a personal battle; there are other and better ways to deal with an uncooperative adjuster.
Your job is simply to show the adjuster that you know how the process works and that your claim is an honest one. Let the adjuster know you believe in the facts you have presented. Avoid high emotions. If you show the adjuster you are making a good-faith claim, you will likely get a good-faith settlement offer in return.
This article is an excerpt from How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Attorney Joseph Matthews (Nolo).