Negotiating with the At Fault Insurance Company

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In all but 12 states in the US (Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Utah), if a person causes a car accident, he or she becomes liable for the damages that arise to other drivers in that accident. This can include personal injury damages if the accident leads to physical harm. The damages can become very expensive and significant in the case of a personal injury, and if you are the victim of such an accident, for which someone else is at fault, you need to know and understand how to get your fair share of compensation. This may involve negotiating with the insurance company of the at-fault party.

Insurance Settlement Negotiations

Negotiating with an at-fault insurance company becomes necessary if you wish to try to collect damages without having to file a civil lawsuit or without having to allow the lawsuit to be completed so a jury can decide the damages. The purpose of such negotiations is to arrive at a fair amount for an out-of-court settlement. This money will be paid to you, as the accident victim, and in exchange you will give up your legal right to file a lawsuit or to get compensation in court. When negotiating with an at-fault insurance company, there are a few essential tips to consider to maximize your chances of receiving the best settlement possible.  

1. Gather and present evidence. The ability to negotiate a settlement is solely dependent upon the insurance company accepting that their client is at fault. If they do not believe you can win a court case against their client, they will be unwilling to make you any kind of offer at all. Therefore, the more evidence you have, the better your chances of successfully negotiating a claim. This information should include a police report, photos from the accident scene, and your medical records. Having witnesses who can back up your story about what happened is also going to be important in case the other party is not truthful about the cause of the accident. 

2. Keep track of all losses and pain endured. A damage award in court should include compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. The settlement should also take all of these different types of damages into account. You will want to be able to prove the extent of these damages to the insurance company so they do not dispute that you are entitled to payments for these factors. Therefore, keeping medical bills, a schedule of missed work, and a journal describing how much pain you have experienced is essential. 

3. Know the statute of limitations. You only have a set amount of time in which to file a civil lawsuit. If you do not file your claim during this amount of time, you won't be able to file at all. Once the insurance company knows that you don't have the ability to sue, they have no reason to pay and are not going to give you anything. 

4. Do not be afraid to get a lawyer or even to file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit does not mean that negotiations for settlement have to end. You can still continue to negotiate even after you have filed your lawsuit. The filing will ensure that you get your claim in within the statute of limitations and will also let the insurer know that you are serious. 

Another key tip involves sending a demand letter to the insurer. This is a letter in which you tell them how much money you are willing to accept in order to settle. Being proactive and sending them this letter lets them know that you aren't interested in entertaining a lowball and unfair offer and that you want negotiations to begin at a dollar amount that is reasonable to you based on what you have endured. 

Remember, once the case is settled and you have accepted an offer, there is no going back. You are going to be bound by the terms of the settlement and will not be getting anymore money from the guilty party. You need to be absolutely sure that what you get is enough, so do not accept a settlement offer that seems very low unless you have a very weak case and don't believe you could win more money in court. 

Getting Legal Help

If you are in the process of negotiating a settlement with the insurance company of an at-fault driver, you should strongly consider getting a lawyer. Not only will a lawyer know what you are entitled to and help you in getting it, but the fact that you have legal representation will also send a clear message to the insurer that you take your legal rights seriously.