If you have a Virginia car accident, you may be wondering how negotiations work. Perhaps you’re working with an attorney, and you’re curious how they think. Or perhaps you’ve decided to handle your own claim and you want to do it the right way.
Over my nearly 15 years of practice, I’ve learned that how one negotiates is a very personal process. Just like how people speak differently, there are varying styles of negotiation. And what may work for one person may not for another.
With that said, here’s some basic principles I think you should consider when negotiating your own case.
You need to know what you think your case is worth.
First and foremost, you need to know what you’re working with. What is the value of your claim. Unfortunately, as we’ve said before, the value of your claim is not a simple formula. Rather, you need to consider “what would a jury do in a case like yours,” and then what’s the value of settling that case.
Of course, the value of your case is not an objective number. It’s subjective and depends on a lot of different factors. I’d suggest you develop your “walk away number.” Or the lowest amount of money you’d be willing to take to settle the case.
How can a number be put on what you’ve been through?
Look, I understand. If you’ve suffered catastrophic injuries (perhaps even permanent injury), how can you put that in dollar values? It’s cold and calculated. And, yes, you’re absolutely right.
However, if you’re pursuing a car accident case, the process will not heal you, it won’t take away the pain, and it won’t reverse time and allow you to avoid the accident.
The most that a claim can do is compensate you for what you’ve been through. So, you need to decide how you value your claim.
You must be a reasonable negotiator.
With that said, my view is to have productive settlement negotiations, you need to be reasonable. While reasonable minds can (and will) differ on the value of a claim, you cannot expect an insurance company to pay you more than what the case is worth. For example, if you believe your case is worth $100,000, you shouldn’t make an opening demand of $1 million. By doing that, you are demonstrating to the other side that you’re not a reasonable negotiator.
Of course, however, when negotiating and making an opening demand, it is expected that you will “go high” to leave further room for negotiations. And like buying a house both parties will move towards a compromise that both find fair, assuming the case can be settled.
You also need a reasonable actor on the other side.
Just like you being reasonable, you also need the insurance company to be reasonable. Like dancing, it takes two parties to engage in productive negotiations. So, if you make a reasonable opening demand, and they respond unreasonably, it’s likely that negotiations will fail.
To be fair, simply because you get a “low” counter, it doesn’t mean that further negotiations are doomed. Opening offers aren’t everything, it’s where you end that matters.
Remember, you can’t force others to be fair. But you can go to court.
Often when I receive a counter to a demand, the insurance comes back with a low offer. Many times, that low offer signals to keep going because it’s not so low as to offend. In those cases, I advise my clients to be patient and that we keep working. Frequently, a several “steps” later, we get the case settled.
Other times, however, the insurance company will respond unreasonably. And my clients, understandably, get upset.
There are many aspects of being a personal injury lawyer that I enjoy. And court is one of them. I remind my clients that I can never force insurance companies to be fair. However, when they are acting unreasonably, I can force them into court. And if it persists, I can ask a jury to award a fair number.
Fail negotiations aren’t always a bad thing. Indeed, many jury verdicts we’ve had resulted in higher numbers than we expected at settlement.
Still have questions?
Make sure to check out our Personal Injury & Criminal Defense Practice Pages where we’ve answered many other questions you likely have. James Abrenio is a Fairfax-Based Personal Injury & Criminal Defense attorney who practices throughout Northern Virginia. You can learn more about James Abrenio, some of our Prior Results, and Read Our Reviews. Make sure to contact us at Ph. 703-570-4180 for your Free Consultation.