Personal Injury Settlements: Using Leverage to Help Settle Claim

by Seth
(Arlington, TX)

Last year my daughter and I were in an accident--we were rear-ended after having stopped behind a school bus picking up kids on the way to school. The reason I'm writing in about this is that I learned something interesting (at least to me). Our claim was handled promptly by the insured's insurance company, but the interesting thing was that they assigned two different claims reps to our case. The first took care of the damage to my car--it was totaled. The second took care of the personal injury claim.

Injury-wise, neither my daughter nor I was seriously hurt. We had a little soreness, but that was about it. Nonetheless, the rep handling this portion of the claim was very polite, responsive and accommodating.

The rep handling the auto side of the claim, however, was much more cut-and-dried, and less anxious to accommodate our losses. He was prompt and made a fair offer to cover the loss of our car. But we had some things that had been in the trunk that were a bit more of an issue to get him to cover. We also had two high-quality car seats in the back, and though he agreed that they needed to be replaced, he was only willing to cover basic car seats, not the replacement cost of the quality car seats we had.

I had waited before settling the injury claim to make sure my daughter wasn't going to need any treatment--her soreness lingered for several days. The injury claim rep called me to check in on how she was doing, and I happened to mention to her my issue with the car seats. She immediately told me to not worry about dealing with the auto claim rep, and that she would instead cut me a check to cover the car seat replacement cost. This solved the problem perfectly from my perspective, and made things much easier than having to argue my case with Mr. Tough Guy.

So here's what I think I learned from this experience. First, I'm guessing that there are probably different incentives for the different types of claim reps. I bet that Tough Guy is incented to make sure he settles claims quickly, but with as little expenditure as possible. On the other hand, I bet that the injury claim rep is incented to make sure claims close quickly and don't go to court, where the insurance company would rack up legal fees as well as run the risk of a claim going before a jury.

Second, I had much more leverage with the personal injury claim than I did with the auto claim. A car's only going to be worth so much, and the value is a pretty objective number. Someone's health and well-being, however, is much more subjective and hard to value, and it's difficult for the insurance company to argue that testing and doctor visits (all of which occur costs that must be covered) aren't required.

And most importantly, the third thing I learned is that I could apply my leverage from the personal injury side of things to my issue on the auto side to get what I needed. Oh, true, the two reps might well have been playing nice gal, mean guy with me. But you know what? I was able to get what I was looking for, so frankly, I don't really care!

This article is approved for informational purposes and is not intended to take the place of competent local legal counsel.

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