One Of Hawaii's Top Auto Accident
Worked for U.S. Air Force JAG
Millions obtained for our Clients' Car Accident Injuries
How To Negotiate With A Hawaii Auto Insurance Company So That You Can Get The Maximum Compensation Possible For Your Injuries
Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t just offer you a fair settlement whenever you make a claim for your injuries. Insurance companies are in the business of doing whatever it takes to pay the minimum amount possible for your injuries. They will always low ball you whenever they get the chance. They will always try to get you take a settlement offer for much less than what you deserve. Insurance companies are businesses and they will do whatever it takes to make as big of a profit as possible. This is why you have to know how to negotiate with an insurance adjustor so that you can get the settlement that you deserve.
The first rule of settlement negotiations is to not appear desperate. For example, if you go to a used car dealer and tell them that you desperately need to buy a car right now, the dealer will know that he doesn’t have to give you a good deal. He knows that you’re going to buy a car from him that day no matter how bad of a deal he offers you. On the other hand, if you go to a car dealer and say, “I don’t really need a car. I already have several cars at home that I don’t even drive. I’m just looking around to see if there are any great deals,” then the chances of you getting a good deal on a car are much higher. In both situations, you could drive off with a car that day, but depending on how desperate you appear it will make all the difference on whether you get a good deal or not.
It’s the same with insurance settlements. If you don’t appear to be in a hurry, then the adjustor will know that if they want to get the claim settled, they’re going to have to offer you a fair settlement offer. The more time you have to negotiate with the insurance adjuster, the better it will be for you. Once you receive a settlement offer, you should wait two to three weeks before making a counteroffer. You want the insurance adjustor to start to wonder if they offered you too low of an amount and you are just going to take the case to court instead of trying to negotiate with them. After a couple of weeks, the adjustor may call you to follow up on their offer. This is exactly what you want. You want to put them in the situation of appearing desperate to try to settle the claim.
After 2-3 weeks you should send a counter offer in writing. Your offers should always be in writing so that there’s a record of the offer. Sending an offer by fax is better than email. Always put a deadline on the offer. We recommend putting a deadline of one week on the offer. Putting a deadline on the offer has several purposes. First, it forces the adjustor to respond by the deadline. Second, it puts an expiration on your offer so that the adjustor can’t come to you later and agree to accept the offer. Sometimes situations change. You may end up needing additional treatment or maybe even surgery. Occasionally, we have insurance adjustors turn down our offer and then several months later come back and want to accept the offer. It’s always a nice feeling knowing that there was an expiration on the offer. We simply say, “sorry, that offer has expired; our current offer is _________.”
One of the most important reasons to put your settlement offer in writing is to set up a possible “bad faith” claim. A bad faith claim can be made if an insurance adjustor turns down a reasonable settlement offer and then it turns out that a jury awards more than the offer that they turned down. Their insured (the one who was paying the premiums) can then sue them for not trying in “good faith” to settle their claim. In other words, the insured would have had to go through years of stress leading up to a jury trial when the case could have been settled years earlier if the insurance company had accepted the reasonable settlement offer.
Ideally, you will go back and forth with the adjustor for as long as you can until the adjustor indicates that they’ve made their “final offer”. Once you have negotiated with them for long enough for them to reach their final offer, then you know that you’ve done everything you can to negotiate their settlement offer up as high as possible. It may take a couple of months, six months, or even a year for you to reach their “final offer.” Of course, you can settle at any time. There’s no rule that says you can’t accept a settlement offer before you reach their final offer. Sometimes people are in a tough financial situation and are forced to accept a settlement offer before reaching the final offer.
Once the insurance adjuster indicates that they’ve made their final offer, then you need to make the decision whether to accept the offer or take them to court. If you really don’t want to go to court and you really don’t want to accept their offer, then you can continue to hold out. It’s possible that if enough time passes, the insurance adjuster will eventually cave in and offer you more. It’s also possible that there may be a change in insurance adjusters and the new adjuster will be more generous than the last one. You can wait as long as you want to try to get an acceptable offer. The only deadline you have to be aware of is the Statute of Limitations. Otherwise, there is no rush.
It’s very rare that an insurance adjuster will take back a settlement offer. In fact, the only situation where we’ve seen this happen is when we took back our settlement offer first. Then, the adjuster did the same thing to retaliate.
Just keep in mind that every adjustor and every insurance company is different. Some adjusters are very motivated to settle. Perhaps they get bonuses based on how many cases they settle. Other adjustors seem to have no motivation whatsoever to settle cases. They don’t return phone calls or respond to settlement offers. Some adjusters are happy when you give up on the negotiation and take the case to court. This just means the claim is off their desk and on the desk of their attorney. Some adjustors get bonuses for settling cases for lower amounts than their value. It seems like each December the adjustors are a little more motivated to settle cases; perhaps because their holiday bonus is dependent on it.
In conclusion, in order to negotiate effectively with an insurance company, you need to be patient. You need to be calm and cool. In general, if you’re willing to wait it out, you can end up with a much better settlement than you would have if you were in a big hurry. Also, don’t think that you have to be nasty with insurance adjustors. It won’t work. They’ve seen it all. They’ve been threatened. They’ve been yelled at. They’re used to almost anything. Most likely, if you are nice, patient, and firm, you’ll end up with a settlement you’re happy with.
THE LAW OFFICES OF DAVID W. BARLOW
Honolulu, HI 96813
Big Island Office