How to Negotiate a Car Accident Settlement in Virginia
10 Tips for Maximizing the Value of a Car Accident Settlement with the Auto Insurance Company in Virginia
The days and weeks after a car accident can be difficult, especially if you were injured in the crash. It’s important that you understand the basics of how to negotiate your car accident settlement with the insurance company in Virginia to protect you and your family’s financial future.
When approaching settlement after a motor vehicle accident, you must understand that insurance companies stay in business and make money by trying to avoid paying for the expenses and costs associated with auto accident injuries and property damage. The less money they pay out, the more they make.
The thought of negotiating with your auto insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company may cause stress and anxiety. You are dealing with people whose livelihood is based on their ability to negotiate lower insurance settlements after car accidents. If you are overwhelmed, or the insurance company refuses to make a fair settlement offer, an experienced and skilled car accident lawyer may be able to help you build your case and navigate the claim process so that you can get a fair resolution.
The tips below are designed to help you negotiate a fair car insurance settlement with your auto insurance carrier or the other driver’s insurance carrier after a car accident in Richmond or elsewhere in Virginia. Though you don’t have to hire a car wreck attorney to negotiate a settlement, you may contact Corey Pollard for a free strategy session by calling 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614 or by completing the online form to your right. We are here to help you and your family during this difficult time.
10 Auto Accident Settlement Negotiation Tips to Use for Your Virginia Car Accident Claim
Never negotiated with a motor vehicle insurance company before? You can still obtain a car accident settlement that compensates you for all your injuries, medical bills, wage loss, pain and suffering, and the property damage to your vehicle. Virginia car accident settlement negotiations are similar to other forms of negotiation. Many negotiation strategies that work in other situations will work when trying to get a fair car crash settlement.
You and the insurance company have competing goals. You want full and fair compensation for all your damages. The insurance company wants to protect its bottom line and pay you as little as possible for your auto accident. Use the tips below to get a valuable settlement from the insurance company if you were injured in a car accident in Virginia.
1. Start the Insurance Claim Right After the Auto Accident
Contact your automobile insurance company immediately after the car accident – the same day if possible. Sometimes this is difficult to do because of your injuries, but the sooner the better.
Initiating your insurance claim right after a car accident serves several purposes. Your memory will be best when the accident happens, so you’ll be able to remember more details about your accident and to report all injuries, condition, and property damage you’ve sustained. And you will put the car insurance carrier on notice right away and eliminate their possible defense that you were not as injured as alleged because you waited to report the crash.
Though you should never give a recorded statement to the claims adjuster without your attorney present, there are some things you should report right away. Read our guide to contacting your insurance company after a car accident for information on when to contact your insurer, what you should say, and what documents you should provide.
2. Keep Records of Everything Involving the Auto Accident and Your Injuries
Keep copies of every record that discusses your car accident. This includes getting a copy of your police report, any records involving the other driver’s criminal and driving record, your medical records, including emergency room visits and physical therapy appointments, mechanic’s bills for car repairs, and anything else potentially relevant to your claim.
You should also keep a journal of how your pain limits you. If you have headaches or migraines after an auto accident, keep written record of these problems. Likewise, if you have days where you suffer falls or numbness and tingling because of your injuries, write it down. The more detailed your injury journal, the better.
You will use these documents during the auto accident settlement negotiation process. Having them available can lead to a quicker resolution of your claim.
3. Evaluate Your Claim from Head to Toe and Calculate a Fair Car Accident Settlement Value
Before you ask the insurance company for a settlement, you must determine how much you think your auto accident claim is worth. A thorough settlement evaluation considers the following:
- The location of your accident. This determines where any trial would be held. Some jurisdictions are more plaintiff-friendly than others. Your attorney will know which jurisdictions are more favorable to auto accident victims. If the insurance company knows the jurisdiction is a good one for plaintiffs, they’ll place more value on your claim.
- The cost of your medical care and related expenses to date, including therapy and counseling. You can get itemized bills from your health insurance carrier or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, if relevant. If you are uninsured you have likely received the bills from medical providers directly. Read our guide on how to handle medical bills after a car accident for more information.
- The expected cost of future medical care, including surgeries, therapy, and prescription medication. An experienced attorney will work with life care planners, nurses, and physicians to determine this amount.
- The amount of income you have lost to date because of your injuries. We recommend getting a wage verification statement from your employer.
- The amount of income you may lose in the future because of your injuries and medical treatment. An attorney can work with an economic expert to calculate the value of these damages.
- Whether you will have to change careers because of permanent restrictions and limitations related to your accident and injuries. A vocational rehabilitation counselor can help determine the type of work you may be capable of performing.
- The length of your treatment. The longer your treatment after the car accident, the easier it is to prove that you had a lengthy period of pain and suffering, which increases the value of your auto accident claim. Further, the longer your treatment the greater your medical expenses in most cases.
- Whether you will have permanent disability. A permanent impairment rating and report is helpful during settlement discussions.
- Your pain and suffering.
- The cost of replacing or repairing your vehicle and any other property damaged in the auto accident. This claim is brought under the property damage portion of the auto insurance policy.
- Applicable medical provider and workers’ compensation liens you may have to pay back.
You will need to have an in-depth discussion with your treating physicians about causation and extent of your injuries. You should also talk with a life care planning expert and vocational counselor to develop other aspects of your claim if you choose to negotiate the auto insurance claim on your own.
After evaluating this information, you should determine a minimum settlement amount that you will accept from the insurance company. If you’re not sure what a fair insurance settlement would be for your auto accident, or if the insurance company disagrees with you, a Virginia car accident attorney can help.
4. Send a Persuasive and Detailed Demand Letter to the Insurance Claims Adjuster Outlining Your Damages from the Car Accident
After you’ve determined what you think your auto accident claim is worth, send a settlement demand letter to the insurance company. Do not just send a letter that says I want X amount of dollars. Such a demand is not persuasive and is unlikely to receive a fair response from the insurance company.
Your demand letter should include the following, at a minimum: a description of the car accident; a description of the police report describing why the other driver was at fault; the medical treatment you have received to date; your injuries; your ongoing limitations and symptoms; the medical treatment you may need to receive in the future; the time lost from work; how bad your vehicle and property was damaged; and, how the accident and injuries have affected you and your family.
After describing the items above, you should tell the insurance company the amount of money you would accept as settlement of your injuries and damages related to your auto accident.
The insurance company will not accept your initial demand. Or if it does, you probably did not ask for enough money. They will reply with an amount lower than what you’ve asked for. Because of this, you should ask for more than what you would accept. How much more is something you should discuss with an attorney who is familiar with the circumstances of your claim, the defendant driver’s insurance company, and the jurisdiction where you were injured.
Attach supportive evidence to your car accident demand letter. This includes supportive medical evidence, a sheet outlining the wages you’ve lost, and the police report, at a minimum.
5. Do Not Accept the Auto Insurance Company’s First Offer
Never take the first offer, unless it is exactly what you’re asking for.
The insurance company expects you to negotiate. Their initial offer will likely be too low. Often the claims adjuster will low ball you as a tactic to see if you really know how much your case is worth.
6. Make the Auto Insurance Company Justify Its Settlement Offer
If the insurance company makes a first offer that is unreasonably low, do not respond by decreasing your demand right away. Instead ask the adjuster to justify his or her offer and to give the specific reasons on which they based their offer.
Why is this important? Because you can then counter with a written letter that addresses each of their specific reasons and explains why the car insurance company is wrong.
Send this responsive letter before lowering your settlement demand and making any concessions. If the claims adjuster calls and asks for you to make a counter demand, tell them that you need a response to your letter first. You want the claims adjuster to adjust his or her offer before you may any concession.
If the first offer is reasonable but not in your expected settlement range, you should still ask for justification. In this scenario it is ok to make a concession on your demand before receiving a response on why the initial offer was what it was. In my experience most claims adjusters and insurance defense attorneys will act reasonably if you act reasonably.
7. Focus on Your Car Accident Case’s Strengths
Most auto accident cases have some weaknesses. That’s ok. A good attorney can deal with weaknesses. It’s surprises that hurt cases.
When negotiating with the insurance company after a Virginia car accident, do not focus on your claim’s weaknesses or the undisputed facts. Focus on the parts of your case that increase its value. This may be the severity of your injury, the impact the injury will have on your quality of life, your inability to return to your past work, or the length of treatment you will need which means longer pain and suffering. If you missed a lot of time from work and will miss even more time due to future operations, let the insurer know. At all times during settlement negotiations drive home the strengths of your case.
8. Use Sources of Evidence Other than Yourself and Medical Records
Most injury victims will testify well at hearing and will explain their injuries and pain and suffering. Your words, however, will be given greater weight if you have photos or videos of the accident, accident scene, or you struggling with daily activities.
Insurance companies know that judges and juries are more likely to award damages when they have concrete documentary proof of how severe the accident was and how your injuries have impacted you.
You should also use family members and friends to explain how your life and interactions with others have changed since the accident. Get witness statements as soon as possible so you can use their testimony during auto accident settlement negotiations.
9. Put Everything in Writing When Negotiating an Car Wreck Settlement
Take notes of every conversation you have with the insurance company. Save every e-mail and letter. And ask the adjuster to put every settlement offer and response in writing. You want to make sure the agreement is memorialized if you reach a deal with the insurance company. A written contract is more enforceable than recollections from a telephone conversation.
10. Know When You Need to Hire an Auto Accident Attorney
Many minor injury cases can settle without an attorney. But if you sustained major injuries, or the insurance company isn’t being fair, you may need to hire a lawyer. An experienced car accident attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve through skill, experience, persuasion, and by working with expert medical and vocational witnesses.
Corey Pollard is an experienced car accident lawyer who represents clients in claims involving automobile, motorcycle, and truck accidents in Central Virginia and Hampton Roads. We can also help you qualify for workers compensation or Social Security Disability if you were hurt in a car crash on the job or if you’re unable to return to your past work because of the auto accident.
Call or e-mail us today for a free consultation. Richmond auto accident attorney and Newport News car accident lawyer Corey Pollard can help you negotiate an insurance settlement after a motor vehicle accident in Virginia.