If you are involved in a car accident and pursue compensation for your damages and losses, you or your attorney will likely deal with an insurance company’s claims adjuster.
Most insurers will make a very low initial settlement offer. You should treat this initial offer as exactly that – a first offer.
What should your response to a lowball initial offer be, then?
Is It Possible to Make a Counter Offer on an Auto Accident Settlement?
The first settlement offer you receive from a claims adjuster is likely to be the first of many, and it’s also likely to be a low offer. You are not obliged to accept this offer and you can make a counteroffer with a more reasonable settlement demand.
Do not feel panicked or pressured into accepting a low initial offer. Instead, consider this the starting point to settlement negotiations. It is strongly advisable to retain an experienced personal injury attorney to help you negotiate a strong settlement reflecting the true cost of your losses, damages, and any emotional pain and suffering caused by your auto accident.
Most Insurers Will Make a Lowball Initial Settlement Offer
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses looking to maximize profits. As such, they will try to pay as little as possible in damages for any personal injury claims as a matter of routine practice. The first strategy insurers use in most cases is to make a low initial offer. Some accident victims under financial stress may be tempted to accept any settlement if it means a rapid remittance of funds.
Sometimes, the claims adjuster may claim you were partially at fault for the accident, or they may suggest that your injuries were not severe enough to warrant a larger payout. Often, insurers call emotional pain and suffering into question, aware that this is harder to quantify than economic damages like medical expenses or lost wages.
Under no circumstances accept an initial settlement offer unless that offer is fair and reasonable – more on that below.
How do you establish whether a settlement offer is fair, then?
Evaluating an Initial Offer of Settlement
You will receive an initial settlement offer in writing from the insurer via your attorney.
Assuming this settlement offer seems low, examine all of the reasons outlined by the insurer for the low offer. You will use each of these points in your counter offer letter, responding to them with rebuttals. How can you go about this?
How to Reject an Initial Offer and Make a Counter Offer
In order to reject this initial offer, you will work with your attorney to create a counteroffer. This counter offer is then mailed to the insurance company’s claims adjuster.
It is vital to keep the tone of this letter professional and courteous. Never attack the claims adjuster personally. Ensure the letter is free of emotions and simply presents the facts, restating your original position and responding to each of their points consecutively.
Your counter offer letter should follow this loose framework:
- State that you will not accept the initial offer.
- List the reasons why you feel you deserve a higher settlement value.
- Respond to each of the insurer’s reasons for a low offer, providing evidence.
- State how much you are prepared to accept in settlement.
You should ensure that your counteroffer is less than the amount you requested in your original demand letter. This shows the claims adjuster you are prepared to compromise in pursuit of a settlement out of court. That said, you should not make the counter offer too low, either. Your attorney will be experienced in this type of negotiation and they can guide you when it comes to making your counter offer.
Insurers will Sometimes Make a Fair Initial Offer
While it seldom occurs, an insurance claims adjuster may sometimes make a fair initial settlement offer. This usually happens when they feel you have a strong and solid case against their insured that is indefensible.
You should not automatically reject an initial settlement offer, then. Only do so if that initial offer is unreasonable and does not reflect the severity of your injuries or the scope of your losses, damages, and emotional pain and suffering.
What To Do If You Sustain Injuries in an Auto Accident
Immediately following a car crash, you should document the accident scene fully. If your injuries are too severe to allow this, ask someone else to photograph the scene extensively. Capture damage to vehicles, any other damage to surrounding property and structures, as well as any debris on the road.
Get the contact details of any witnesses to the collision. You can later obtain statements from these witnesses to potentially strengthen your claim.
Seek immediate medical evaluation, even if you don’t feel you have suffered serious injuries. Prompt medical assessment can rule out any life-threatening injuries and ensure you get any treatment required. Follow up on this treatment. Document all your medical expenses.
An injury attorney’s contingency fee basis means you need to pay nothing out of pocket, instead paying your legal fees when your case settles.
While you focus on recovering from your accident injuries, an attorney will build your case, obtaining statements from witnesses and engaging any experts as required. Once you have calculated the value of your claim, including both economic and non-economic damages, your lawyer can negotiate a settlement with the insurance company.
If negotiations do not generate a fair and reasonable offer, your attorney can help you file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. Consider retaining an experienced personal injury attorney as an investment rather than an expense.