Before discussing this issue, it is important to first inform the reader that seeking out a Phoenix personal injury lawyer for representation as early as possible is the best way to address your potential claim.
In order to understand how to properly negotiate with an insurance company after a car accident, you must first know what and when to negotiate. The only topic of discussion early on should be about your vehicle. While the insurance company will try to address your injury claim, you should refrain from discussing your injuries until a later date. You should inform the insurance company that you were injured and provide no further information about your injuries at the outset. Because you will need a new vehicle or your vehicle repaired right away, all early discussions with the insurance company should be limited to your vehicle.
Waiting to negotiate your injury claim is important for several reasons. The most important reasons are as follows: (1) You will likely not know the nature and extent of your injuries until well after you have been treating with medical providers; (2) a settlement is final- meaning you cannot renegotiate with the insurance company after you have settled your personal injury claim. Thus, if you settled your claim while not having a comprehensive understanding of the nature and extent of your injuries, your opportunity to address later discovered injuries or the impact of those injuries is foreclosed.
In order to properly negotiate your personal injury claim, it is important to understand what you are legally entitled to claim. If you do not know this, you are negotiating in the dark and may think you are entitled to compensation when you are not and vice versa.
The law provides that tort victims are entitled to claim the following damages: (1) nature, extent and duration of the injury; (2) pain, discomfort, suffering, disability, disfigurement and anxiety already experienced and reasonably probable to be experienced in the future as a result of the injury; (3) reasonable expenses of necessary medical care, treatment and services rendered and reasonably probable to be incurred in the future; (4) loss of earnings to date and any decrease in earning power or capacity in the future; (5) loss of enjoyment of life, that is, the participation in life’s activities to the quality and extent normally enjoyed before the injury. The law also permits other types of damages that may apply for certain types of fact situations (such as loss of consortium, etc), though these are not generally applicable for most injuries and cases. The case law in Arizona provides for the following (citations excluded): Unlimited recovery for actual damages, expenses for past and prospective medical care, past and prospective pain and suffering, lost earnings and diminished earning capacity; all expenses and for the value of services reasonably made necessary by the harm. Once the right to damages is established, uncertainty as to the amount of damages does not preclude recovery. Pain and suffering are separately compensable damages from “loss of enjoyment of life” which compensates victims for the limitations resulting from the defendant’s negligence or the injured person’s ability to participate in and derive pleasure from the normal activities of daily life. In other words, any injury that the victim can prove is proximately caused by the acts of the wrongdoer.
In addition to understanding what you may be entitled to, you must also consider what you can prove or not prove when negotiating. The law requires the victim to prove the damages claimed, which invariably requires evidence from not only the victim but other witnesses such as the victim’s physicians. Even if essentially proved, a jury or arbitrator (depending on the nature of the case) is still the only entity that determines which damages the victim proved and most important- the amount or value of the damages. Thus, the law may permit compensation for alleged damages but only a jury can determine which, if any it will decide to award, and the amount to award. Consequently, understanding what a jury in the relevant jurisdiction may award should be the basis from which to determine a settlement value and therefore a range from which to negotiate.
The wrong way is to negotiate too early or to negotiate blindly, i.e. without knowing what you may be entitled to or not. Knowledge is power and it alone is what separates the right way from the wrong way in negotiating.