If You’re Negotiating Your Own Insurance Settlement, Avoid Making These Mistakes
The following is adapted from Not a Good Neighbor.
There are some people—many of them lawyers—who will tell you that you need to hire an attorney to represent you if you’re in a car accident. However, that’s not necessarily true, and in fact, many times you can negotiate a fair settlement without legal counsel.
If you decide to negotiate your own settlement, though, you need to avoid making some common mistakes. Any one of these mistakes—whether it’s letting your negotiations drag on too long, failing to keep accurate records, not getting proper medical treatment, or seeing the wrong doctor—can sink your case.
Because I want you to get the best settlement possible, I’m going to give you my perspective—gained through decades of representing clients in accident cases—for each of these things. I think, once you understand these common errors, you’ll avoid making them yourself, and you’ll be able to present the strongest case possible to your insurance adjuster.
#1: Allowing Your Negotiations to Drag On
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when negotiating your own insurance settlement is allowing your negotiations with the adjuster to go on too long. Negotiations can last as long as you allow, and the insurance industry is happy to keep your money as long as they can so they can continue earning on the investment they have it in.
You must keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations on personal injury cases. It varies from one to six years, depending on the state you live in and what type of action you need to bring. You must keep your eye on that date so your negotiations don’t stretch beyond it and you wind up not getting anything.
Try to get the negotiations over as quickly as possible. Go in with clear goals and a timetable, and understand that you aren’t going to get full value for your case. Know what you are willing to settle for and try to get the adjuster there as quickly as possible.
#2: Failing to Keep Good Records
Another major mistake—and one of the worst things you can do when you’re negotiating your own settlement—is failing to keep good records of your expenses. Every doctor’s appointment, every parking meter, every aspirin purchase must be recorded, and you have to hold on to the receipt.
You must have data, and you must have proof. Adjusters and, if the case goes to trial, lawyers may ask to see that proof. So make sure every receipt and every piece of paper are in a safe place. Remember, if you don’t have proof of an expense, it’s like it didn’t happen, and you can’t ask for reimbursement as part of your settlement.
#3: Failing to Get Proper Medical Treatment
Another huge mistake is failing to get proper medical treatment. This commonly happens when people downplay and undervalue their injuries.
They don’t understand what’s happening to them medically and what kind of problems they might develop in the future, and as a result, they don’t go to the hospital after the accident to get checked out and get medical treatment.
It’s crucial that you get a doctor to properly document your injuries. You must do this immediately, or an insurance adjuster can easily argue that the accident didn’t cause the injury. Plus, it’s very common for some injuries to be overlooked for a few days, because the adrenaline in your body covers up the pain immediately after the accident.
So, make sure, no matter how you feel after your accident, that you go to a hospital or urgent care center. This is vital to building your case, and it will support the settlement amount you plan to ask for.
#4: Seeing the Wrong Doctor
Along with getting your injuries checked out right away, it’s also important that you go to the right doctor. If you go to the wrong doctor, you run the risk that they’ll hurt your case. Doctors to avoid are ones that aren’t very sympathetic and refuse to see possible complications from your injuries.
Instead, you want to find a doctor who is very good at documenting your injuries and making sure you see all the specialists you need. To find a good doctor, contact a couple of local plaintiff lawyers and ask for a recommendation.
Tell them that you’ve been in an accident, but before you hire an attorney, you want to set up the medical claim. Ask them to recommend a doctor who will be sympathetic to your situation. Most offices will be glad to help you. Every referral helps, and doctor referrals are great for the lawyer, the doctors, and the patient.
You Can Successfully Negotiate a Fair Settlement
Bear in mind that negotiating your own insurance settlement will take some time. Some of the steps may seem complicated, but the process itself is usually straightforward and manageable.
By following the tips above, you can avoid making mistakes and instead stay focused on building a strong case. And that, in turn, will give you a much better chance of successfully negotiating a fair and decent settlement with the insurance company.
For more advice on how to get a fair settlement without hiring an attorney, you can find Not a Good Neighbor on Amazon.
Brian LaBovick is a lawyer and entrepreneur who has earned more than $400 million for his clients after establishing his injury law practice in 1991. As one of two students selected to the prestigious Order of the Barrister as the outstanding litigator in his class at the University of Miami, Brian was hired by the US Department of Justice Honors Graduate Program after graduation. He is now CEO of the LaBovick Law Group, an advisory board member of Keiser University’s legal education division, a past president of the North Palm Beach County Bar Association, and former director of the Palm Beach County Justice Association.