Settlement is an important part of the claims process. Every claim that is brought against an insured, must be resolved. Some are dropped by the claimant once an insurance adjuster denies the claim. Some are taken to trial. But most are settled.
Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is the first step in maximizing your settlement. When you hire an attorney, the insurance company knows that you can eventually file a lawsuit. This means they will take you seriously.
Negotiating a settlement is both a skill and an art. Attorneys become very skilled at this part of the resolution process. Some things are important to keep in mind when negotiating a settlement with a claims adjustor.
A Claims Adjuster is Not on the Claimant’s Side
North Carolina law requires that an insurance carrier act openly and honestly during the claim process. However, bending the law is not the same as breaking it. An insurance adjuster represents the interests of their insured and those of the insurance company. The insurance company has legal obligations regarding the handling of claims, but their primary obligations are not toward the claimant. In fact, they would like to pay the claimant as little as possible on any given claim. The term “lowballing” is used to describe a claims adjuster who makes a ridiculously low offer on a valid claim. The adjuster is often very nice and solicitous toward the claimant when making that offer. Unfortunately, this tactic often works and a person with a valid claim will accept a settlement that does not adequately cover their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Know The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Case
The first step in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses is investigating your claim. Our attorneys will interview witnesses, police officers, and EMS personnel. We will also investigate the at-fault parties’ background and prior conduct. Once we’ve investigated the unique facts of your case we will gather medical records, doctor’s opinions, and other evidence that will be necessary to prove your damages.
Once we have a complete picture of the circumstances surrounding your case we can determine whether pre-suit settlement is a good option for you. A pre-suit settlement is obtained without filing a lawsuit. In some cases, this is good for clients. In other cases, a lawsuit may be necessary.
Negotiating a good settlement often involves several demands and offers between the parties before a settlement is reached. This involves having a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the case. Every case has strengths and weaknesses. Making the most of the case’s strengths is key to negotiating a good settlement. Issues to be considered include:
- The strength and credibility of the parties as witnesses
- The facts that make liability clear or not
- The facts that make damages clear or not
- The severity of the injuries involved
- The strength of the corroborating evidence
- The Defendant’s potential bad conduct
As your attorney begins to draft an initial demand letter to the adjutor, your attorney will look at all of these factors and will highlight those factors that are strongly in your favor. Here is an example.
Let us say that the claim concerns a car accident. The accident occurs at a 4-way stop intersection. Driver A stops at a stop sign. Driver B, at a right angle to Driver A, fails to stop and slams into the driver’s side of Driver A’s vehicle. The injury causes severe whiplash. Driver A is a teacher on her way home from work. Driver B is a grocery clerk coming off of an 8-hour shift.
Here, liability is pretty clear. That is a strong point and will be used by Driver A’s attorney in negotiating a settlement with Driver B’s claims adjustor. If Driver A is clear and well-spoken, Driver A will make a credible witness should the matter proceed to trial. Now, Driver A’s attorney has a compelling case on liability and a credible witness.
Driver B has a history of DUIs even though he was not under the influence at the time of the accident. This may or may not come out in a later trial. If it does come out it makes Driver B less credible in the eyes of a jury.
An attorney will highlight these strengths in their negotiations with the claims adjuster, using these strengths as leverage to maximize their clients settlement. The process may require several rounds of negotiations and possibly a mediation to resolve the case in Driver A’s favor, but a skilled negotiator can likely get Driver A a full and fair settlement.
Free Consultation with An Experienced North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney
Years of insurance defense work have honed our skills. We know the insurance companies’ playbook, and we use this insider knowledge to help our clients get the compensation they deserve. Put your focus on healing and put our experience on your side. The initial consultation is free. Call Horton & Mendez today at (910) 668-8067 or fill out the form to see what we can do for you.
Settlement Attorney FAQ
How Do I Know When a Settlement is Fair?
Never take a settlement without first consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney. It takes years of experience to understand how to work with claims adjusters and how to not leave money potentially on the table during a settlement negotiation.
How Can I Deal with This Right Now?
The insurance company knows you are stressed from the accident and may just take a lowball offer to get the claim process over with. Having an attorney provides you a buffer and a way to deal with the insurance company while you are healing from your injuries.
What About Future Medical Care?
If there is a substantial likelihood that you will need continued medical care, that will have to be factored into your settlement. There are ways to do this. Talk to your attorney about what might work best for you.