How to negotiate with an insurance adjuster

Negotiating a car accident settlement means coming face-to-face, or phone-to-phone, with the insurance adjuster.

To expedite settlement of your claim, you must understand what motivates insurance adjusters.


Negotiating a car accident settlement means coming face-to-face, or phone-to-phone, with the insurance adjuster.  

To expedite settlement of your claim, you must understand what motivates insurance adjusters.

Let’s Talk About Motivating Factors

Insurance adjusters are people. And plaintiff lawyers are people (we insist).

But many of the things that motivate some — if not most — plaintiffs’ lawyers, likely do not apply to the insurance adjuster.

For instance, win, lose, or draw, at least twice a month, the insurance adjuster wakes up rolls over, grabs his smart-phone, logs in to his mobile banking app and finds that while he slumbered, he became the recipient of a direct deposit.  So, unlike many—nay most—plaintiffs’ attorneys, the insurance adjuster gets paid every two weeks. Win, lose, or draw.  Like clockwork.

And, unlike defense lawyers, on the other hand, the insurance adjuster is not in the business of racking up billable hours.

So what then, motivates the insurance adjuster?

An insurance adjuster’s motivators maybe sorted into two piles.  But here, because it’s Friday, you will find them sorted into three.

1) Negative motivators

The first category is Negative motivators. Forces tossed into the “Negative” pile are those factors that prompt the insurance adjuster to act in direct response to an unpleasant internal sensation: A negative emotion.

Negative motivators that will inspire an insurance adjuster to settle a claim include:

Ego.  Ok, to be fair, ego may be a positive or negative motivator. But for now, we’ll consider it negative.

Bad Faith claims: A bad faith claim, while it may not reflect personally on an insurance adjuster, is one of his greatest fears. No one likes anything that starts with the word “bad.”  Especially insurance adjusters’ bosses.  Bad faith liability is extra-contractual liability. In other words, it is money that the insurance company will lose, that it did not have to lose, and – most importantly – did not plan to lose.

And that, for a company in the business of making money, is scary. (Here’s a sample bad faith letter, in case it comes down to that).

Fear of committing malpractice: If you’re dealing with an adjuster who is also an attorney, remember, she’s just like you.  She wakes up every morning scared, eats lunch scared, and, at the end of the day, goes to bed scared.

2) Positive motivators

As in all human interactions, let’s just agree that it will serve you better in the long run to spur the adjuster to action based on a positive emotion.  Whence the second pile: Positive Motivators.

Actions that originate from a ‘warm, fuzzy place’ are superior in quality to actions that originate from a deep, dark, dangerous place.  And, as a general proposition, assuming equal outcomes, having people remember you fondly will always pay greater dividends.

So all else being equal, seek first to incite the insurance adjuster to act utilizing positive motivators before resorting to the negative ones.  Remember: In all likelihood (particularly if you play your hand correctly) your career will be long, and more than likely this will not be your only case against this adjuster–or her associates.

Positive motivators that encourage an insurance adjuster to settle your claim quickly include:

They like you: “You like me. You really like me..!” Never underestimate the power of this.

You’re professional/you make it easy: They trust you. You have credibility. You make their jobs easy.

They believe in your case: They believe your client deserves to recover.

Most people have an instinct for justice. There is probably no greater motivator than convincing an adjuster that your client rightfully deserves compensation.

Chipping away at the case load: This one is self-explanatory. So I’ll explain it. The insurance adjuster, almost at any insurance company in the country, is responsible for approximately 2,307 claims. Give or take 700. In other words, help her, help you, help her.

3) Rational motivators

The final category of motivation for insurance adjusters, which is by and large extremely rational, is the unpredictability of jury trials and the verdicts they generate.

That this one was tossed into this pile is not intended to suggest that the previously-listed motivators are not rational too. Rather, this factor was gently deposited onto the Rational pile because it is a consideration for the insurer.  A rational consideration.

And it should be for you too.

So what have we learned?

When you find out who the insurance adjuster is on your case, pick up the phone.  Introduce yourself. Present your case.  And, if you cannot be reasonable, at least try and sound reasonable.

The practice of law used to be civilized.  Do your part—help return it to civility.  By brightening the day of a poor, overworked insurance adjuster, in likelihood you will be greatly helping to promote resolution of your client’s case.

And, by extension, you will be greatly helping yourself.

But you already knew the insurance adjuster and the insurance attorney are the gatekeepers and protectors of the castle.  But what is it again that they are so zealously guarding?



So since we’re on the topic, let’s talk about how auto insurance companies make money.

Or, read about how to craft a car accident demand letter.

Or, if you tried to be nice, but the insurance company is still not paying your property damage claim, it’s time – here’s a Sample bad faith letter.


Watch video How to write a great demand letter.

Understanding the insurance adjuster

The insurance adjuster (or insurance examiner) is the insurance employee who decides when it is time to release a single red cent, silver nickel, or green dollar relative to your claim.  He is the gatekeeper of the insurance company’s vault.

The insurance adjuster is responsible for paying the bills.

And by “bills,” I mean you. The insurance adjuster is responsible for paying you.

Keep in mind, the claims adjuster is not (usually) an attorney.

What this means is that while he may understand the process of valuing claims, calculating settlements, analyzing charges, evaluating allegations, and spotting and investigating signs of fraud and deception, he is not necessarily trained in the art, science, process (and magic) of *the law*.

The magic of *the law*

What this means is that while you, the plaintiff’s lawyer, must rely on the adjuster to cut the check, the adjuster must rely on the plaintiff’s lawyer —i.e.,  you — to advise him as to the company’s rights, obligations, and options (read about crafting an auto accident demand letter here).  It is a beautiful and harmonious symbiotic relationship.  The adjuster supplies the funds.  And you? Well you my friend supply the motivation.

So, get out of that adversarial mindset.

Rudeness, curtness, and nastiness have no place in your dealings with the insurance company.

You cannot intimidate an insurance adjuster.


Because they have the money.

I’ll say it again: They . have . the . money.

They hold the purse strings, Jack; you don’t get paid unless and until they cut the check.

And remember—nay, don’t ever forget the first law of money: A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow.  Which means that all else being equal, a fast settlement is worth more than a slow settlement.

If the insurer drags its feet, you don’t eat. Or at the very least, you don’t eat lobster. Or, at the very least, you don’t eat lobster today.

Appeals, discovery motions and objections, scheduling conflicts; all of these stand between you and your next tasty seafood meal.

So, to win at this game you must motivate the insurance company to settle your case.

To motivate the insurance company to settle your case, you must motivate the insurance adjuster to settle your case.

And to motivate the insurance adjuster to settle your case, you must begin by asking yourself “What motivates insurance adjusters?”

And, to find out what motivates insurance adjusters…

Well, you keep reading.

Watch video How to write a great demand letter.