Most people have experienced negotiating deals. Maybe you’ve purchased a car or two and had to bargain with the dealership for a monthly payment you can afford. Or perhaps you bought an apartment or house and spent weeks going back and forth at a good price.
Not everyone enjoys bargaining, but most of us have at least a little bit of know-how when it comes to negotiations.
However, car accident claims are different. When you’re up against an insurance company after sustaining injuries in a car accident, you’re negotiating a settlement. These are complicated agreements that determine how much money you receive for serious injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
This is your one chance to get the compensation you deserve. As such, you probably don’t want to take the first settlement the insurance company offers.
Why? Insurance companies may produce some clever commercials that promise they’re on your side or just like a good neighbor, but their primary goal is to turn a profit. They do this not by fully and fairly compensating claimants but by paying out as little as possible on every single claim.
How Insurance Companies Value Your Claim
Insurance companies have sophisticated methods for putting a dollar amount on your car accident injuries and other damages. In most cases, an insurance company’s valuation starts out with a “reserve.” This is a set amount the insurer puts aside for a claim based on basic information. It’s usually calculated with actuarial figures, and any amount above this reserve requires approval from someone higher up the chain with the insurance company.
The reserve figure can be determined by a number of things, including the individual adjuster reviewing your claim, the overall corporate philosophy of the insurance company, any past claims you’ve brought, and predictive modeling used by the insurer.
In other words, you’re a single claimant pitted against all the resources of what is usually a large corporation. While you’ll typically deal with an adjuster, that individual is backed by supervisors and the entire organization.
If your injuries are extensive and your claim has a high valuation, it may even be decided by a group of people rather than an individual adjuster. This group will likely convene behind the scenes and can consist of a number of people, including department managers, vice presidents of claims departments, and home office examiners.
What most claimants don’t know is that when you’re negotiating, you’re probably really negotiating with what amounts to a committee of highly experienced people. If your claim has a high dollar figure, it’s likely that you’re dealing with more than just a single insurance adjuster or claims representative.
This is why working with an experienced New York car accident lawyer can give you an advantage when it comes to negotiating a car accident settlement. Insurance companies have extensive resources, and they want to pay out as little money as possible. With a knowledgeable car accident lawyer on your side, you can focus on your physical recovery rather than playing the negotiation game with a powerful insurance company.
How Insurance Companies Devalue Car Accident Claims
Insurance companies want to spend the lowest amount of money as possible on each and every claim that comes their way, and they’ll resort to several strategies to avoid paying the full and fair amount claimants deserve.
Some of the strategies include:
Minimizing your injuries
Refuting the necessity of some of your medical treatments
Claiming you were comparatively negligent for the accident and trying to reduce your claim accordingly
Searching your social media for photos or statements they can use to claim you aren’t as badly hurt as you claim
Claim they only have authority to go up to a certain dollar figure and no higher
The insurance company will also gather as much information about you as possible. They’ll assemble details about your past injury history and medical records, your employment history, your credit report, any past lawsuits you’ve been involved in, and your personal background.
Insurance companies also want to settle a claim as quickly as possible and before the claimant retains a personal injury lawyer. This is because the insurer has little control over a car accident claim once it enters litigation and almost zero control if the case goes to trial. At that point, decision making falls to a judge or jury.
Insurance companies own studies indicate the average settlement with a lawyer is three times greater than without.