Shuman Roy is an entrepreneur, business owner, and musician. He started RoysNoys, LLC in 2013 as a music production and education service company. He also offers small business consulting and advisory services to help businesses get from start-up mode to turn-key operations. Shuman earned his M.B.A from the Stern School of Business in 2001 and has an undergraduate degree from Manhattan College in ...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Joel...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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If you’ve recently been in a car accident, you may be wondering “how to negotiate with insurance companies” to get the maximum settlement.

Before we begin, remember that the insurance adjuster you end up speaking with has a lot more experience than you do, even if you have been in multiple car accidents throughout your life.

It’s their job, they do it everyday, so if you think you’re going to outsmart them, think again.

Get It In Writing!

The key to successful negotiation with a car insurance adjuster is to present the facts clearly, coolly, concisely, and in writing.

Explaining to an insurance adjuster that your car accident was horrific or the worst experience of your life won’t get you anywhere, aside from maybe a little false sympathy.

When it comes down to getting a settlement, the adjuster needs hard numbers, not sob stories.  Sure, they’ll listen to your stories, but you’ll just be wasting more of your time, leading to even more frustration.

To maximize your return, think of any and all bills associated with the accident, as well as loss of income (even if you’re self employed).

After getting into an accident, it’s imperative to make a list of such expenses and costs as soon as possible, as sometimes we forget these things as time goes on.  Check out what to do if you get in a car accident for more on that.

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What Type of Car Insurance Settlement Can I Expect?

Once you’ve got all your paperwork in order, send it the insurance claims adjuster and await their offer; chances are it will be on the low-end of a certain range they’re permitted to offer.

For example, you may be offered $3,500 for a car accident with minor injuries/medical bills, but the adjuster may have the ability to give you $5,000 or more.

This is where your negotiating skills will come in, as it’ll be you against the adjuster for that $1,500 in between.

Keep in mind that they may also ask what you’re looking for in the terms of a settlement before throwing a figure your way; this is their way of sniffing out weakness.

Someone with little knowledge regarding car insurance settlements may ask for an amount below what the adjuster was prepared to offer.

Highball Your Offer

That said, make sure you highball your offer if they ask you to come up with a figure, or simply ask them to make you an offer instead.

If you ask for more than you think you’ll receive, their offer, despite likely being a bit lower, might suit you.

But never take the first offer.  There’s no reason to accept the first offer you’re given, as the insurance companies are always willing to give you a bit more.

As I mentioned earlier, they have a range, and the first offer you hear will be at the low-end, so ask them to do better.

Typically, they’ll offer another $500, possibly $1,000, but hold out for more if you think the original offer is unacceptable; and don’t be afraid to tell them the offer is unreasonable.

Don’t expect to receive three times your medical bills either, that’s an old rule that insurance companies will scoff at if you even mention it…or they’ll just say they’ve never heard of it.

Make Some Noise

One final note; the squeaky wheel gets the grease…it pays to make some noise if you feel you aren’t being offered a fair settlement.

Get on the insurance company’s back, call them everyday until the issue is resolved; ask for a supervisor if you aren’t satisfied.  If you’re complacent, they won’t budge, so the more fuss you make, the better.

Remember, like all things in life, preparation is vital; if you come ill prepared, you’ll be slaughtered.

Make sure you’ve got notes that you can refer to when speaking with the insurance company, as well as answers to potential rebuttals you think may arise.

Rehearsing may even be advisable before getting on the phone so you don’t buckle under pressure.

If you’re too scared to go it alone, or not confident that you’ll receive a suitable offer, you always have the option of hiring a lawyer, though they’ll take a cut of the total settlement.

Keep in mind that all car accidents and insurance companies are different, and can vary widely, so this is just a general overview of how the process might go.