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How to Negotiate a Car Accident Settlement: 7 Tips

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    How to Negotiate a Car Accident Settlement: 7 Tips

    If you've been in a serious car accident caused by someone else, you should receive fair compensation for your injuries. Sadly, car accident victims with valid claims often face challenges from insurance companies who fight hard to pay them less than they deserve. But with seasoned Washington car accident lawyers representing them, victims have more than a fighting chance to recover the compensation they need to address their losses.

    At Lehmbecker Law, every personal injury lawyer on our team knows how to negotiate an auto accident settlement in Washington to get maximum compensation for our clients.

    How to Properly Calculate Compensation

    Recovering compensation requires you sending a demand letter to the car insurance company handling your case. However, before you send the letter, you must first accurately determine the value of your claim, which will include calculations for the following damages:

    • Medical care-related expenses and costs
    • The total wages or salary you have lost due to an inability to work
    • Any permanent or long-term disabilities brought on by the accident
    • Pain, suffering, and other intangible damages
    • The cost to repair or replace your vehicleThe costs to repair or replace any other property that has been affected by the accident

    Without a proper, full, and documented account of your damages (or an attorney), you will not receive a fair settlement. Auto accidents can leave you with a lot on your plate, unless you get representation from a car accident attorney adept at negotiating a car accident settlement, you will likely receive far less compensation than you deserve.

    Negotiating a Case’s Value with an Insurance Adjuster

    Successfully negotiating auto accident settlements with an insurance company begins with the knowledge that insurance companies will always fight to pay less. Therefore, you should not be surprised when an insurance company responds to your demand letter with a much lower counteroffer. For this reason, it is typically wise to demand about 20%–25% more than what your car is worth.

    Additionally, to successfully negotiate with an insurance company, you should have a desired settlement amount in mind before starting negotiations — plus a minimum settlement figure that you will not go below. Without these predetermined figures, keeping your negotiations on track can be difficult.

    If the insurance company's first offer is inadequate, you should decline it and ask the claims adjuster to justify the proposed amount. Once they have explained their position, you can move on to a counteroffer. You may need to provide some flexibility in light of this new information to ensure a better chance that they will accept your next offer.

    If the negotiation process ultimately does not yield a compensation figure that you feel you deserve, you can file a lawsuit against the insurance company. However, the overwhelming majority of car accident claims are settled during the negotiation process and do not require litigation and court.

    How Washington State Laws Affect Car Accident Compensation

    how to negotiate a car accident settlement

    So can you negotiate car accident settlements? The answer is yes, you absolutely can. However, you must understand the legal factors that affect the amount of compensation you get. As mentioned, the extent of the damages you suffer (such as medical bills and pain and suffering) plays a role in the total compensation you receive, but your degree of fault also determines how much you are ultimately paid.

    According to Washington state negligence laws, a car accident victim who is found to be partially responsible for their accident will have their compensation reduced according to their percentage of assigned fault.

    For instance, if you are 10% responsible for a car accident and are owed $200,000 in compensation, your award will be reduced by 10% (or $20,000). Keep in mind that there is no precise formula for determining levels of fault, but the facts will usually demonstrate whether the victim played some role in causing the accident.

    How to Get a Higher Value for Your Car

    When negotiating your car accident insurance settlement, the goal is to recover as much compensation as reasonably possible. Achieving this requires you to understand the tactics that insurance companies use to pay claimants less than they deserve — and counter these tactics.

    Keep in mind that insurance companies will pay to restore your car but not to make it better than it was. Hence, they often argue that certain repairs or parts are over the top and lead to the betterment of your vehicle.

    To counter these arguments, you can:

    • Obtain a statement from your mechanic that a part or repair is necessary and does not lead to the betterment of your vehicle.
    • Argue that due to the crash, your car is now worth much less on the open market, even if a part or repair leads to its betterment.

    Regarding other damages, appealing to emotion can be effective. This can be accomplished by explaining how the car accident has negatively impacted important aspects of your life.

    More Auto Accident Settlement Negotiation Tips

    After years of fierce negotiations with insurance companies, we've found that these seven tips can help you achieve more optimal results.

    1. Don't Be in a Hurry

    Right after your injury, some insurance adjusters may immediately offer an amount to settle your insurance claim. However, many times the full extent of injuries and losses are not known for several months. Therefore, it’s not advisable to settle your claim until you are certain you know what the future holds for your recovery.

    2. Don't Accept First Offers

    Insurance companies want nothing more than to close out a claim as quickly as possible and for much less than the claimant deserves. Sadly, they are often successful at this for at least two reasons: the claimant does not know the true value of their claim, and the claimant needs the money.

    For this reason, insurance companies frequently present a low figure as their first offer or counteroffer to the claimant. For claimants who don't understand the damages they're entitled to, this offer may seem reasonable. However, if they were to take that offer to a personal injury attorney, the lawyer would show them just how unworthy the number is.

    This lowball tactic also works with claimants who are in desperate need of funds to cover their losses. Insurance companies count on claimants' great need for quick compensation and tempt them with fast and easy payouts. However, those that hold out and are patient usually get far more money.

    3. Always Have Good Documentation of Your Damages

    how to negotiate car accident settlement

    During settlement negotiations, insurance companies require claimants to prove every loss they are claiming, from the cost of medical treatment and lost wages to pain and suffering and emotional distress, a claimant must have some sort of proof that establishes the existence of these damages.

    Hence, it is smart to document all of your medical expenses and bills, any time you have missed work, and some sort of record showing how you have been feeling after your accident and how your injuries have caused you to miss activities important in your life.

    4. Follow Through with Medical Treatment Guidelines

    If you have received medical treatment for a car accident injury and have been given a reasonable course of treatment, you must follow through on this treatment. Failure to do so can cause damage to your personal injury claim. An insurance company can claim that you exacerbated your injuries and, thus, do not deserve the extent of damages you are seeking.

    5. Review Your Car Insurance Policy

    If you're negotiating with your own insurance company for a settlement, make sure to review your entire policy for areas of coverage and exclusions. Doing so will keep your negotiation efforts within the bounds of the coverage and prevent you from negotiating for things not covered by the policy.

    6. Be Patient but Persistent

    Negotiating with insurance companies can take several months, which may seem quite long for many claimants. Adjusters count on the fact that many claimants simply want an end to the whole affair and get cash in their pocket. So they tempt victims with quick, easy payouts that are far below what they should receive.

    However, if you are patient and persistent, you are more likely to get a fair settlement. Keep in mind that, by law, the process cannot drag out forever, and adjusters have a limited time to settle claims. So you should always keep track of the timeline and expect prompt results.

    7. Hire an Attorney Early

    can you negotiate car accident settlement

    Before negotiating a settlement after a car accident, meet with Lehmbecker Law.

    Accepting a Settlement Offer

    When you accept a settlement offer, your case will be closed, and you will not be entitled to pursue more compensation. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the car accident negotiation settlement is a worthy one.

    Factors to consider when saying yes to an offer from an insurance company include:

    • How quickly the insurance company replied to your demand letter
    • How much compensation you would get if you went to court
    • The cost of taking your case to court
    • The uncertainty of going to court vs. the certainty of a settlement

    If you accept, inform the insurance company by registered mail, utilizing a return receipt requested service to establish a legal record of your acceptance.

    Get Experienced Legal Help in Seattle Negotiating a Car Accident Settlement

    To increase the odds of receiving the largest settlement possible, contact Lehmbecker Law as soon after sustaining an injury as possible to begin building your claim. We will identify and gather all the appropriate evidence for your claim to secure you the best possible compensation. Consultations with a Seattle attorney who knows how to negotiate auto accident settlements are always free.\

    Contact Lehmbecker Law Today

    Get the settlement you deserve. Let our attorneys negotiate the maximum compensation for your car accident claim.

    ‍Request Free Consultation

    Larry A. Lehmbecker
    Firm Founder, Larry Lehmbecker, has nearly 40 year’s of experience fighting for the injured in Washington State. He is always eager to share his knowledge to help those in need.
    Contact Lehmbecker Law Today
    Our attorneys and paralegals have decades of experience to help ensure you get the proper treatment for your injuries
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    How does the insurance decide to offer a settlement?

    When deciding whether to settle, an insurance company will closely review the circumstances of the accident, as well as the demand letter. The more the facts that demonstrate their driver was at fault, the more likely they are to settle, assuming the victim is making a reasonable demand for compensation.

    Why should I settle my claim? Shouldn’t I file a personal injury lawsuit?

    You should settle your claim if you get a reasonable offer from the insurance company. The expense and time requirements of going to court are only worth it if the insurance company is acting unreasonably and not offering reasonable compensation.