If you’ve been in a serious accident where your car was totaled or you suffered an injury, the accident is just the first in a series of challenges. Insurance companies are notorious for questioning claims and offering low settlements. What should you do if you don’t like their offer?

Auto insurance providers work with claims all day every day and are familiar with the cost of a crash or injury, while you at home are not. It’s an uneven playing field and they know this. An insurance company makes their offer in response to what a lawsuit will cost them, then fitting that number into your situation and your perceived skill at negotiation.

Take these steps before considering an offer:

  • Have your own figure in mind, both a maximum and a minimum acceptable offer.
  • Be prepared to negotiate. Do not take the first offer.
  • Have your argument prepared. Focus on documentation and your strongest points instead of a laundry list of details.

How negotiation typically works

The insurance company will present an offer, followed by an explanation. In emphasizing your own points and damages, be reasonable and work within range of the insurer’s offer. If it feels unreasonable, you’ll want to negotiate in writing with a “demand letter,” which details your experience and expected compensation.

From here, a claim goes back and forth as the sides reach a settlement somewhere in the middle, typically after a few exchanges. Most cases reach a settlement and, as long as it feels fair in representation of your costs and damages, this is a normal process after a car accident. If a case goes to court, the negotiation is out of your hands and turned over to a jury or judge.

Where experience can help

Like the auto insurers, personal injury lawyers are exposed to lawsuit costs on a daily basis. However, they represent you, whereas an insurance company is working to secure their own bottom line, so working with a legal professional is a way to level the playing field. Demand letters and other negotiation tactics can be found online but a trusted attorney can write a professional and point by point letter in your favor as well as handle negotiations to make sure you get the coverage you and the at-fault driver have been paying toward.