Nine Mistakes To Avoid When Negotiating Settlement With Your Insurance Company

Published: 07th May 2009
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I am not an insurance adjuster, I am a courtroom lawyer that represents only policyholders in cases against insurance companies. Here are some of the mistakes and problems I see people make over and over that hurt their own case.



1. Don't take their word for what is covered and not covered: A lot of the time claims handlers have never even read the policy. The company just tells them how to pay claims ... and it isn't necessarily right, either. If the policy isn't quite clear about something, the law requires that it be interpreted in your favor. What counts is what it says, not what somebody else is telling you it means.



2. You don't have to give up rights to get your rights: It is unethical, and in most states illegal, for insurance companies to gain leverage over you by refusing to pay that part of your claim that is clear and undisputed, until you agree to take less money on some other part of your claim that the company disputes. But it works so well that some companies do it all the time. It is called "holding the money hostage" until the policyholder pays the ransom.



3. Don't get in a rush. Insurance companies have statistics showing that if they can get you to settle quick, it costs them less. This routine works especially well for them, because fast settlements are packaged as good customer service. But the companies know that many injuries take several days after an accident to even show up, and much longer than that before anyone knows if they are going to last very long or not.

The companies also know that if they can't get you to settle quick and cheap, slowing things way down is the next best way to get you to take less. State Farm used to have a Power Point presentation for claim handlers. It said "Money is Power." When you have the power, use it. When you don't, delay! Studies show that patience and going slow maximizes negotiating results. Getting in a rush dramatically reduces negotiating results.



4. Don't put off going to the doctor: If you think you might be injured, the company or its lawyers will use your delay as evidence to suggest there was nothing wrong with you, and you only went later because you decided to bring a claim and collect money.



5. Be reasonable and fair-minded with everyone: At every step in the process, and with everyone you encounter from policeman to doctor, be reasonable, honest, fair-minded and cooperative. Your insurance company is bound by law to be fair with you, and you will be in the best possible position if you "play fair," too. If they decide not to play fair, you will do a lot better if it is clear who has the white hat and who has the black hat.



6. Be responsive and timely: You want your insurance company to be responsive and timely, so do the same thing for them. If you don't, you are giving the company excuses they can later use against you.



7. Courtesy counts: If you need to vent some anger over the situation, do it with your family or friends. If you write a nasty, sarcastic letter to the insurance company, it won't hurt you-as long as you don't mail it. Courtesy and old-fashioned manners really do go a long way to smooth things out, so be polite, even (or especially) when you don't feel like it.



8. Honesty is not the best policy, it's the only policy: It's the right thing to do, and the truth is always more believable anyway. Embellishing the story almost always hurts you.



9. Understand When and How to Get Legal advice: Talking to an attorney is not the right move in every case, but sometimes you need advice: Allstate has statistics showing that on the average it pays 5 times as much money per claim to people who have legal representation, compared with those who don't. Because of those very statistics, Allstate created scripts for its adjusters use in persuading people not to go to lawyers. But you can make bad mistakes in choosing lawyers too. That subject is discussed in another article.About The AuthorWhen the insurance companies refuse to give you what you paid for - Abourezk Law will be there. Our lawyers that handle insurance bad faith will help make sure you get the claim you're entitled to. Visit online at http://www.abourezklaw.com/ for more information.

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