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: Sep 22, 2021

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If you’ve recently been in a car accident, you may be asking yourself,  “how can I negotiate with my insurance company?” In order to get the maximum settlement, this should be something you’re thinking about. Your insurer is going to end up giving you an insurance adjuster to work with, and it’ll be up to you to ask them questions.

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. That being said, what most drivers don’t realize is that there are things they can do in order to get the most from their settlement, without seeming as if they’re trying to upstage their insurer. You don’t want to fight against your insurance company, you just want to know that they hear you and your concerns.

Should you get it in writing?

The answer is yes, absolutely. The key to successful negotiation with a car insurance adjuster is for drivers to present the facts clearly, coolly, concisely, and in writing. It helps to make the claims process smoother when all the details in the damage report are given precisely.

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. Rather, they’re going to want drivers to focus on the accident report – any vehicle damage that was done, and any physical injury you may have suffered. The process may seem harsh especially if you’ve suffered serious emotional distress, but it’s necessary in order for them to provide the service you need.

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, repairs that are going to be needed, 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 provide. This isn’t always the case with every insurance policy, but it does happen enough to warrant an explanation.

For example, you may be offered $3,500 for a car accident that resulted in a minor injury and minimal damage, 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.

Drivers with little knowledge regarding car insurance settlements may ask for an amount below what the adjuster was prepared to offer. Through no fault of their own, they could end up with less than what they should be given. That’s why the negotiation process is so important.

Is it possible to highball your offer? 

That said, make sure you highball your offer if your claims adjuster 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, then 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 insurer is 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. Keep in mind that it’s not their fault that this is how it’s done; you don’t want to lose your temper with your agent. It’s all part of the process that most auto insurers have set up.

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.

However, 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.

Should you even speak up? 

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. Even if you don’t particularly enjoy any sort of negotiation process, it’ll be in your best financial interest to at least speak up.

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. No one is going to fault you for sticking up for yourself.

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 most auto insurance companies are different, and can vary widely, so this is just a general overview of how the process might go. Despite there being a wide variety of auto insurance companies in existence, they are all there in order to offer you protection. It’s simply a matter of knowing what to ask for and what you are due. Talk to your insurer, and ask questions. Be involved in the settlement process, rather than just sitting back and waiting for the money to come your way.