Insurance companies do not think the way you and I think. But, by understanding how insurance adjusters think and what is important to them, you can maximize how much money you receive in a personal injury case.
What Is the Adjuster’s Goal?
Insurance adjusters are trained to try to rip you off. Although, adjusters do not call it that. They also do not think of it in those terms. But, they are not charged with the task of making a reasonable settlement offer to you. An insurance adjuster’s mission is to pay you as little money as possible to settle your claim, which allows the insurance company to keep as much of its money as it can.
When you think of it this way — the way it is — you find clarity. This is all about money. No one will be able to turn back time and make the accident go away. The only thing the civil justice system can do for you is to give you money. It is not a fair trade. You would just rather that the accident never happened. But, money is the only way to compensate victims. I do not run from this. My goal is to get as much money as humanly possible for my client’s case.
Goal #1: Do No Harm
Yes, the insurance adjuster’s goal is to pay you as little as possible. But, the adjuster’s primary goal is to avoid getting themselves into trouble. This is a job where doing great work is appreciated, but prolific mistakes will define you as an employee.
This driving motivation helps the injury victim in litigation but hurts the victim in the pre-suit negotiations. Why? The adjuster who is making recommendations on the settlement value of the case had better be right if the case will go to trial. If the verdict is higher than expected and in excess of the policy limits, then that claim will be audited. Did the adjuster pull out all the relevant facts and make the proper evaluation? This causes the adjuster to inflate the value of a claim as trial nears. (It also, parenthetically, motivates the defense lawyer to puff up the plaintiff’s case, so she has cover if the jury makes a large compensation award).
Conversely, there is little pressure on the adjuster before the lawsuit if filed. The adjuster has many opportunities to reevaluate the case over the course of the litigation. If the adjuster overpays on a claim, and that file gets audited, there is the opportunity for that adjuster to get in trouble.
Give the Adjuster His Power
I’ve told you that the adjuster is not your friend. He is not trying to give you an amount of money that is fair. He wants to give you an amount of money that is wildly unfair. But, it is important, especially in pre-suit negotiations, not to let this “the adjuster is the enemy” mentality bleed into the settlement negotiations. I always tell my clients that the best personal injury victims are the clients who love everyone and their lives are just delightful… except for this awful accident. When you are establishing your credentials as a jerk, you are also decreasing the value of your case.
You should also know that insurance adjusters are people too. I make this stunning confession because it is important to recognize this if you want to maximize the value of your case. Like everyone else, insurance adjusters want to be treated with respect. They are just doing their job. Don’t take it personally.
Antagonizing the adjuster is not the correct path to getting more money in your case. It just forces the adjuster to fight harder to take more money out of your pocket. I know what happened to you might have been awful. But, the more you treat your personal injury claim like it is a business deal, the higher your settlement will be.
How Do You Get More Money for Your Settlement?
So, what are the take-home messages for the victim when given this motivation? First, you are almost invariably going to maximize the value of your case by filing a lawsuit. Otherwise, the adjuster’s incentives are working against you. Second, if you will settle the case before filing suit, you need to weaponize the adjuster with information so that the adjuster can document why the case should be valued as high as you believe it should be.
Sometimes, it is good to offer this additional evidence after settlement negotiations have begun so the adjuster can justify going over the insurer’s initial evaluation of the case. Finally, talk to the adjuster in his own language. Language such as “You can justify this amount because…” is speaking to the adjuster in a way that satisfies his impediment to raising the settlement offer.
This also underscores the importance of catering to the adjuster’s need for new information during the settlement talks. Insurance adjusters sometimes need to document their file with a reason to increase the offer. Feed them something real to satisfy this need.
- How to figure out the settlement value of your case.
- How to write a demand letter. Includes sample demand letters for different types of personal injury cases.
- If you have a serious personal injury case, you are foolish to proceed with a lawyer. Too many victims take this route and end up with far less money in their pocket. Some of you will ignore this advice and try to do it on your own. My thinking is that we should weaponize you to screw up your case as little as possible. Here is advice on how to proceed without a lawyer.
- Every single insurance company is a little different. Learn about how to maximize the settlement value of the claim against the specific insurance company you are dealing with in your case.