Getting a fair settlement offer from an insurance company following an auto accident often takes negotiation. Use these five tips to help ensure you get the best settlement you are entitled to.

1. Know what you want
The first step to reaching a fair settlement is to know how much money you believe your claim is worth. The amount should be based on your assessment of the cost to repair your vehicle to its pre-accident state, the difference in its value after the accident and repair (a repaired vehicle has less value than one with what is known as a 'clean' CarFax), and the cost of any personal injury you suffered, including loss of work. You should also keep in mind any future costs you will require, like physical therapy.

2. Know your minimum
When the insurance company makes you a settlement offer, it may be tempting to accept immediately, especially if it is close to what you feel is reasonable. Before accepting any offer, you should decide what minimum amount you are willing to accept. This figure should be for your personal use only and not shared with the insurance company. For example, if the insurance company offers you $9,000 to settle your claim and you wanted $10,000, you may feel it's worth accepting their offer rather than prolonging negotiations or going to court. However, if it's not close to your minimum you should feel confident in continuing the negotiation.

3. Talk to them
The basis of any successful negotiation involves discussion. When the insurance company makes their first offer, it's important that you understand how they came up with the figure. If the claims adjuster does not have all of the facts, like your latest medical evaluation, you can use this information to negotiate for a higher amount.

If the claims adjuster has information about the accident that you didn't have, you may need to lower your expectations for what a fair settlement may be. On the other hand, if the claims adjuster initially offers you a settlement that is higher than you expected you may want to increase your minimum dollar amount.

4. Elaborate on the emotional details
Once you and the claims adjuster are working from the same facts, it won't benefit your case to go over them again. In the next phase of negotiation emphasize your emotional plight. For example, if being in the hospital separated you from your children, or if your injury made you unable to care for them as you normally do, explain that your children were victims of the accident as well. If you have photos of your injuries or the damage to your vehicle make sure the adjuster sees them, especially if they emphasize the ordeal you went through.

5. Document everything
From the beginning of your claim negotiations to the end, make sure that you have all of the information you need related to the accident documented, including the police reports, your medical bills, prescriptions, how much time you lost at work, and anything else related to your claim. Write down all of the details you remember about the accident. You should write out your expectations and the relevant dollar amounts in a letter to the claims adjuster; this is usually called a demand letter.

As negotiations continue, make sure to document anything else that arises. If you require additional physical therapy, for example, or if your doctor refers you to a specialist for additional treatment, document it. If you are unable to perform duties at work, or even do normal chores at home due to your injuries, make a note of these as they arise with the dates.

When you do reach an agreement, confirm this by writing a letter to the claims adjuster specifying the amount you agreed on, what damages and injuries it covers, and when you expect to receive documentation of the settlement from the insurance company.

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