Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 19, 2018

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After you file your car insurance claim, you will need to work with an insurance adjuster who researches your accident, studies your policy, and decides how much money you are entitled to. The best way to approach the car insurance adjuster is to be respectful and well prepared. Although the adjuster works for the insurance company that makes money by paying you less, most car insurance adjusters will deal with you fairly, especially if you are respectful, knowledgeable, and prepared to prove the value of your accident claim.

Remember: A car insurance adjuster’s main concern is to justify the insurance settlement for the file. Therefore, providing them with the correct documentation to prove your settlement will not only make your car insurance claim go more smoothly, it will also help you get the settlement that you want. 

Negotiating Your Accident Claim with Insurance Adjusters

Negotiating your car insurance claim with an insurance adjuster can be a little intimidating at first. However, knowing your claim value and having all the necessary documentation will give you the tools you need to navigate the negotiation with confidence. Be polite but cautious when dealing with a car insurance adjuster, and always remember that they will ultimately serve the company’s interests over yours. A few simple tips to keep in mind as you speak with an adjuster:

  • Start your conversation by outlining the overall circumstances that created your auto insurance claim, highlighting the points that support your value of the claim (other driver’s negligence, you following rules of the road, what the police report says, etc). Remember, you’re not telling the insurance adjuster anything that they probably don’t already know, however, you are letting them know that you’re an informed claimant and that you understand the value of your auto insurance claim.
  • Advise the insurance adjuster of the total of your special damages and the amount you’re demanding for the settlement of your accident claim. At this point, don’t be surprise if the insurance adjuster breaks off the conversation by saying that they will consider your demand and get back to you. This is to break your momentum. Not contacting you for two or more days may be a tactic to slow you down and to make you think that you have to settle for less. Remember, a well-documented auto insurance claim has merit and when fault is not in question, it is in the best interests of the insurance company to settle. 
  • Do not lower your claim value or offer until the insurance company has made a counter offer. If they request documentation to substantiate your accident claim, such as photos or medical records, send the information that you feel will best help your auto insurance claim.
  • Keep in mind that showing good faith during negotiations will move your auto insurance claim to settlement. Set the minimum you are willing to take. Understand that the insurance adjuster will start low to save the insurance company as much money as possible. Do not be offended or react emotionally to the process. Stay calm and professional throughout the negotiation process.

Reduce your auto insurance claim’s settlement demand gradually and the adjuster will likely come up on his offer. If you find yourself within an acceptable range, consider settling for a mutually agreed upon amount. They will send you a check with a release form to sign. Once signed, that is it! Never sell yourself short by signing a settlement agreement that leaves you stuck with any outstanding medical bills. Make sure the settlement is an amount that covers your bills and adequately compensates you.

Remember:  Being unpleasant with the adjuster will not do you any good. If they are being difficult, take the high road and ask to speak to a supervisor or a different claims adjuster.

Reaching a Roadblock During Negotiations

If you find yourself at a roadblock and unable to settle your claim with your adjuster, you still have other options:

  • Ask to speak to the insurance adjuster’s supervisor. Be polite but firm, explaining that you sense a stalemate in negotiation and perhaps a fresh pair of eyes on your auto insurance claim may help to resolve this for both parties. Be prepared for push back. However, if a supervisor is requested, the claim adjuster must comply. Move through the process with the supervisor, explaining that it is in both interests to get the claim resolved.
  • Write the State Department of Insurance. Call or write the department of insurance for your state, especially if you find unjust delays in the negotiation process (weeks between offers). This could be deemed bad faith on the part of the insurance company. Copy any documentation you may have and outline your demand in writing and your reason for the complaint (delay in settlement, unjust or low balling offer, etc.)
  • Consider talking with or hiring an attorney. Speaking with an experienced car accident attorney will let you know if your claim’s value is in line and if you are on the right track. A car accident attorney can also negotiate all aspects of your claim and may help win you a larger overall settlement. If you engage an attorney, you must cease all communication with the insurance adjuster and refer him or her or any other communication to the attorney.
If you find that you are not moving towards the insurance settlement you need, consider contacting an attorney. A car accident attorney will step into your insurance claim and work with the insurance adjuster to achieve a fair insurance settlement.

How to Avoid a Rejected Claim

The first line of defense against a rejected insurance claim is to document every dollar spent or lost as a result of your accident. Medical bills, prescription receipts, mileage to and from the doctor, old paystubs that can verify your pay rate, car payment records, and repair estimates, will serve as proof of your damages. Insurance adjusters will never, ever, just “take your word for it.” If the adjuster disputes your claim, provide him with the basis for your number. It is entirely possible that the adjuster’s file is incomplete or contains errors. Often, submission of supporting documents accompanied with a detailed letter outlining why the documents support the claim can be enough to get the adjuster to raise their settlement number.