Once your injuries have healed or stabilized, and you have all the information you need about the accident, your medical bills and lost wages, it's finally time to negotiate. At this point, you should have sent a demand letter to the insurance company. Assuming it was clear and you included any necessary supporting documentation, negotiations should be relatively quick and painless.

Before the Initial Negotiation Call

After the insurance company has received your demand letter, an insurance adjuster will call you. It's likely that the adjuster will try to settle for less than your initial demand, so make sure you know just how low you are willing to go before that first conversation.

You can adjust your thinking about this bottom line number at any time, depending on what points or offers the adjuster makes. This is not something to discuss with the adjuster, it's just something to help you decide how to respond during negotiations. As long as you know your original demand was fair, you will still be trying to negotiate a final settlement as close to that amount as possible.

The Negotiation Conversations

During your first conversation with the adjuster, you will each make your case. This will include both strengths and weaknesses in the two sides' arguments.

The adjuster will most likely make you an offer lower than you requested. How you respond will depend on the offer. If it's reasonable, you can also be reasonable and suggest an amount lower than but still close to your original demand. If the offer is ridiculously low, however, you have the right to ask for an explanation. Once you get that explanation, get off the phone and write a letter responding to each point. Highlight your case's strengths.

It will probably take a few phone conversations and letters, as you each adjust your settlement expectations. Always be polite but firm, even if the adjuster offends you with an offer. If you feel unable to make your points calmly by phone, end the conversation and send a letter. The more reasonable you can be, the more likely you can convince the adjuster to see your point of view.

Accepting the Final Settlement

Once you have reached an agreement, you should get it in writing. Confirm your oral agreement with a letter outlining the details of that agreement. Note the final settlement amount, what it covers (injuries, lost wages, etc.), and when you expect to receive your settlement check.

After the insurance company makes payment, it will probably require that you sign a document stating that it has no further liability in your case. Your personal injury claim is officially completed.

Dealing with insurance companies can feel overwhelming at first, but as long as you are organized and understand how the process works, you can negotiate successfully with them.