How To Negotiate a Bodily Injury Settlement

If you ever have the misfortune to suffer an injury covered by insurance, knowing how to negotiate a bodily injury settlement will be invaluable. Adjusters will tell you how they reached a settlement offer, and you can take this information into account to try to get a higher offer. When figuring out what would be a fair settlement, consider your injuries, property damage, missed work, and suffering.

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Jared Staver is the founding attorney of Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C., based in Chicago, Illinois. His passion for personal injury law began many years ago as he witnessed the adverse effect on people’s lives when insurance companies refused or delayed claims after accidents and injuries. For over 20 years, Jared has leveled the playing field to get injured clients the compensation they ...

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Written by Jared Staver
Personal Injury Attorney Jared Staver

UPDATED: Mar 9, 2022

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Overview

  • An insurance adjuster will likely make a low initial offer
  • You have the right to know how the adjuster reached their offer amount
  • You can address the reasons the initial offer was low and wait for another offer to be made

Whether you’re filing a claim with your insurer or the other party’s, insurance companies are notorious for settling as cheaply as possible. Still, you have more control than you might think when it comes to negotiating a bodily injury settlement with an insurance company.

You can increase your chances of a higher settlement with a few simple steps. Keep reading to learn more.

Have a Settlement Amount in Mind

If you prepared your insurance claim or demand letter, you probably have a range of what your claim is worth. Before talking to the adjuster, think about the minimum figure that will cover your medical treatment, property damage, and pain and suffering. Keep this figure to yourself. Never reveal your bottom amount to the adjuster since this figure will become the basis of their offer.

How Insurance Companies Arrive at a Settlement

Insurance companies consider two kinds of damages in your settlement: economic and non-economic. (Lawyers might call them special and general damages.)

Economic damages usually don’t generate much pushback from the adjuster. These are straightforward, tangible expenses, like car repairs, hospital bills, and even lost pay for the time you were out due to injuries. The more severe or extensive your injuries, the more economic damages you’ll have.

Non-economic damages, however, are more controversial. Pain and suffering, and emotional trauma are losses that are more difficult to quantify.

Multiplier Method

Many insurers use a multiplier method for arriving at a settlement offer. They multiply your medical expenses by a number (usually 1.5 to 5) that reflects the severity of your injuries. A traumatic brain injury gets a higher number than a sprained ankle.

For this example, we’ll use a relatively minor injury and a multiplier of two to reflect your pain and suffering.

Medical Expenses x 2 = General Damages
Total Medical Expenses + General Damages + Lost Income = Settlement Offer

You can see where negotiations play a part since pain and suffering are more subjective. Suppose you believe the insurance company should multiply your medical expenses by three. In that case, you’ll need to find a compromise between the two amounts.

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Be Prepared for a Lowball Initial Offer

Most insurance adjusters begin negotiating a bodily injury settlement with a low starting offer. Remember, they’re trying to settle for as low as possible and hope that you’ll jump at any offer. Insurers count on the fact that most people don’t know how much their claim is worth or that they’re just tired of the whole process and want to put it behind them.

You don’t have to accept any offer that you consider unreasonable. If the offer is a little lower than your demand letter, ask for an amount that’s a little higher. Chances are, you’ll meet in the middle with a compromise that you can both live with.

It often takes a bit of back-and-forth before both sides reach an acceptable bodily injury settlement.

Ask How the Adjuster Arrived at Their Offer

You have the right to ask the adjuster how they arrived at their offer. It’s best to get their explanation in writing. The second best option is to take notes on your conversation, then address each one in a letter to the adjuster.

Make sure that you and the adjuster look at the same receipts, expenses, and documentation. For example, if they’re missing medical bills, that could explain the lower offer. Make copies of the statements in question and get them to the adjuster.

Additional Reasons for a Low Settlement Offer

Insurance adjusters look for any excuse to downplay your injuries and pay you less than you might deserve. Here are a few more reasons an insurance company would offer a low settlement.

  1. If you’re filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance, the adjuster might try to pin some of the blame on you. Shared liability means that the insurance company can pay you less than what your injuries are worth.
  2. Another popular excuse for a low settlement offer is that you had a pre-existing condition that caused or contributed to your accident injuries.
  3. You might need to supply additional evidence of fault against the other driver or obtain more straightforward medical documentation to get a higher offer.

If you’ve already reduced your initial ask, wait until the adjuster receives your letter before going lower. It’s up to the adjuster to absorb this new or additional information and to get back to you with another offer.

Wait for Their Second Offer

It can be challenging to wait to hear from the insurance company, especially if you’ve been out of work and have a pile of bills. Call if the insurance adjuster doesn’t contact you in what you feel is a reasonable period. Ask if they received your letter and if they’re going to adjust their offer.

One of three things will happen:

  1. The adjuster will increase the offer based on your input.
  2. The adjuster will make an even lower offer.
  3. The adjuster will repeat the same offer.

Ask the adjuster to explain how their second offer is lower than the first. Go over each point and follow up in writing.

Accepting an Offer

If you reach an acceptable settlement for bodily injury, make sure to get the offer in writing. Read the settlement letter carefully. You cannot pursue additional damages or file a lawsuit once you sign and deposit the check (or arrange for direct deposit).

If the adjuster still won’t move upward on the offer, it’s probably safe to assume that you’re at a standstill. At this point in negotiating a bodily injury settlement, it is wise to call an attorney. Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations. They’ll listen to your story, offer some advice, and then it’s up to you if you want to pursue the compensation you think you deserve.

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When to Call an Attorney

It’s your decision, but it might be advantageous to let an attorney handle your claim if:

  • You’re seeking a large sum of money for injuries and pain and suffering.
  • You anticipate future medical treatment.
  • You must prove that the other party is at fault.

Accident injury attorneys routinely deal with insurance companies. They’re familiar with the laws in your state regarding liability and negligence. A car accident lawyer can take over the frustrating and time-consuming task of negotiating. They can also file a personal injury lawsuit if it’s clear that no reasonable offer is forthcoming.

You deserve fair compensation for bodily injuries. If you’d like to explore your options with a personal injury attorney, use the search tool on this page.

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