If an insurance company offers you a settlement, chances are that initially, it’s much lower than it should be. However, being in an accident and then dealing with an insurance company for long periods of time can be frustrating and you may be ready to move on. That’s one reason why people frequently accept lowball offers, and this is something insurance companies know and use to their advantage.
The insurance settlement you’re initially offered is very unlikely to fully compensate you.
So not only do you not have to accept an insurance offer, but you should probably reject it and also speak to an attorney before you do anything else.
Beyond that, the following are critical things to know about an insurance settlement offer.
What To Do When You Receive An Offer
There are a few steps to take when you get a settlement offer from an insurance company.
First, stay calm and go over the offer, whether you feel like it’s low or not. You might actually feel angry if it seems the insurance adjuster is trying to take advantage of you, or you could feel relief to be offered anything at all.
Regardless of your feelings, remain steady in how you think about and approach the situation.
You should talk to the adjuster to learn more about how they came to the figure they offered, and then at some point, you’ll have to submit a counteroffer in writing. You shouldn’t ever settle a claim until your injuries are fully healed.
The goal of an insurance company is to pay the least amount possible on an injury claim. Someone who works for an insurance company as an adjuster is not likely to give you their best offer from the start.
You’re not obligated to accept it, and you shouldn’t.
Also, if an insurance adjuster tries to get in touch with you directly to make a low offer, you’re not obligated to speak to them. You can decline to speak to the adjuster until you’re ready or until you’re working with an experienced attorney.
An insurance adjuster is only there to work in the best interest of the company they work for, meaning minimizing payouts on behalf of their employer. Also, there’s no obligation on the part of the adjuster or the insurance company to treat you fairly or to try to resolve a claim in a timely way.
Even when an initial offer from an insurance company seems like it covers your expenses related to your accident, you have to look further down the road. The true cost of a personal injury can take months or years to become apparent.
You Can Reject An Offer and Still Get Compensation
There’s a tendency on the part of insurance companies to convey the idea that a settlement has to be accepted right then or you have no other options, and that’s not the reality. It’s not true that if you reject an offer you get nothing.
A settlement offer is just the beginning of negotiations, and that’s an area where an attorney can help you—they understand this negotiation process.
Along with rejecting an offer, you can also make a counteroffer.
Negotiating with an Insurance Company
Whether you reject the initial settlement offer or you make a counteroffer, the next steps are going to be similar.
As a note here—if the offer is reasonable, but you still think it should be higher, then you might make a counteroffer. That will show you’re willing to be reasonable and reach a compromise. If the offer is very low, then you might reject it entirely.
When you’re beginning negotiations, you should have an idea of what your settlement amount will be. You should go over, preferably with an attorney, how much your claim is worth. Knowing the minimum you’ll accept is part of successful negotiations and it will keep you from making an emotionally-driven decision
You may also receive a reservation of rights letter before you receive an offer, and that just lets you know the insurance company is investigating your claim but they are reserving the right not to pay you if the accident doesn’t end up being covered. It’s just a technicality that provides a legal shield for the insurance company.
If you do receive a very low offer, as was briefly touched on, you should ask the adjuster to outline the specific reasons why the offer is that low. Then, make notes of these reasons, and you can draft a letter replying to each.
It may be that if the adjuster presents a strong argument, you lower your demand.
When you’re negotiating with an insurance company, don’t be afraid to highlight the emotional elements of your claim. You can’t put a dollar amount on pain and suffering, so this can help strengthen the offer that the insurance company returns to you with.
Your Injuries May Be More Severe Than You Even Think Initially
This was mentioned very briefly above, but it’s a big part of why shouldn’t accept initial offers—you may not even know how severe your injuries are at the time.
It could be, for example, that complications eventually arise from your injuries, or you need more extensive treatment than you thought at first.
That means you should receive more compensation for your damages from the insurer.
If you do choose not to accept a settlement, the insurance company may give you a deadline to respond to them.
It’s best at this point to at least consult with an attorney. Then the attorney can also file a lawsuit in the meantime as negotiations are ongoing, in case a settlement can’t be reached.
You may get multiple offers throughout the process, and if you have a lawyer working for you they can advise you about the pros and cons of accepting each.
The decision remains yours ultimately, whether you work with an attorney or not.
Then, if your lawyer has filed a claim, the more active the insurance company might get in trying to settle because they don’t want to go to trial.