In this article I will give you a few easy tips on how to maximize your Florida accident settlement. First, understand that accident settlements are basically negotiations between you and the insurance company. Negotiation is a skill that can be mastered only by experience. Most accident lawyers know the rules, but few are master negotiators. Negotiating with insurance companies is kinda like playing poker. You gotta know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em (and when to raise your bet).
When negotiating an accident settlement keep your cards close. Do not volunteer information, unless it helps your case. Without being untruthful, you can just let things unfold in a way that helps your case. Winning is winning, as long as it is accomplished within the rules. One need not lie, but, much is achieved with what is NOT said, as is what IS said.
Now, things may be different in litigation. The rules of civil procedure may require you to disclose certain information, that you might not otherwise have to disclose pre-suit. For example, in your pre-suit demand you may want to withhold your past medical records. However, in litigation the defense attorney will request all your past medical records. So, if you continue to withhold your past medical records, you would be violation of the rules of civil procedure. This could lead to sanctions by the court.
The first stage of your accident claim should be about collecting all the evidence. Request everything (or as much as you can get) in writing. Some insurance companies are fair; but most simply are not. Do not believe everything (or anything) you hear. I often say you can tell an insurance adjuster is lying if their lips are moving!
In Florida, insurance companies are required to disclose certain information. Mainly, the limits of the liability coverage, a statement of any policy or coverage defense, and a copy of the actual policy. The insurance company must also provide information as to excess or umbrella insurance. This information must be disclosed within 30 days of receiving a written request.
From the beginning the insurance company will try to talk to you. It is their job to try to get you to make a recorded statement. They want to lock in your story (version of the facts) early on. If your story changes, even slightly, they can attack your credibility. In every accident case, credibility is the most important factor. It is important to try to avoid talking to the insurance.
There is no reason for making a “recorded statement.” It does not help you and can ONLY hurt you. The only exception to his rule is that your own insurance company can make you, under your insurance policy contract. This is why you’ll want to examine your insurance policy to confirm you have a duty to give a recorded statement after a loss. If it’s not in your policy, you don’t have a duty to give a statement. If your insurance company insists you must give a recorded statement, ask them to kindly point out the language in your policy documents. Again, you can tell an insurance adjuster is lying if their lips are moving! The best practice is to trust; but verify.
It is best to deal with the insurance company in writing. This creates a paper trail record of what has transpired. Any promises or statements would be in writing. Insurance adjusters love to say state things on the phone when their is no record of what was said. This is why you should send a letter confirming what you and the adjuster discussed. Further, insurance adjusters are trained to subtly take charge of situations and place themselves in a superior or advisory role. When they begin talking to an injured party on the phone, they will often give “friendly advice,” or elicit information from them in unguarded moments. It is simply best to avoid talking to the insurance company altogether.
Insurance adjuster are also trained to “befriend” you. In other words, they want you doing and acting as they “advise.” In reality, the insurance company is the last person you want give your advice. If you keep matters in writing you won’t have any problems because you’ll have a nice paper trail. They may tell you that they “need” a recorded statement, or that they cannot open the claim without this, but just ignore them. Other than your contractual obligation to give your own PIP/UM insurer a statement, you owe no other duties to anyone.
Courtesy and good adjuster relations is one of the most important factors impacting an accident claim in Florida. Yes the fact and injuries are important, but adjuster relations can be just as important and sometimes have a bigger impact on the outcome of your case. It took me awhile to realize that insurance adjusters are people too. If they don’t like you, or think you’re rude, they often can (and do) throw up roadblocks to your case and claim. Adjusters check your facts and claim and assign it a value. They are important to the outcome of your case.
You should always deal with insurance adjusters in a professional and courteous manner. Again, it’s best to have minimal contact, and try to do everything in writing if you can. Yet, you cannot completely avoid all contact with your adjuster, and the better that goes, the better your claim will go. As the old saying goes, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
As a young lawyer I thought insurance adjusters would instantly cower at my “threats” of litigation. I quickly realized that not only do they see litigation cases every day, and it doesn’t scare them; but litigation means my case could literally take years longer to resolve. Likewise, the adjuster would generally be done with the claim at that point, as the claim would be moved to the legal department. I think most adjusters secretly hope you threaten to sue. Many of them just laugh, because it is less work for them and it take you literally years longer to get your money! So, be polite with the adjuster and try to cooperate with them whenever you can. Do not yell or be abusive. It gets you nowhere.
Now if the adjuster is being complexly unreasonable, and the your claim is clearly worth more than the insurance company’s highest settlement offer, you may have no choice but to hire an attorney to litigate the case. Remember, it’s not personal, it’s business. After all, the insurance adjuster is paid to get you to accept as little as possible
Another strategy for getting the most money out of an accident case is talking to an accident lawyer. Even if you don’t hire an accident lawyer, just being more informed can help maximize your recovery. Also, telling the adjuster, nonchalantly, that you’ve talked to a lawyer, but you don’t want to hire one unless you have too. This strategy only works if you do so in a coy manner. It signals that you know you have a good case. Insurance companies hate lawyers and lawyer involvement. Accident lawyers generally make the average value of an accident claim go up several times the normal amount. Adjusters know that if you hire a lawyer, they lose direct access to you.
For more information about how to get the most money from a Florida accident case or accident cases in general please read our article “Should I Give Recorded Statement To Insurance Company.” Please don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!
The Longo Firm, P.A.
12555 Orange Drive, Ste. 233
Davie, FL 33330
Tel: (954) 862-3608