Simple Changes Improve Settlement Outcomes
Humans are creatures of habit, even at work. Our data show that many adjusters have behaviors so ingrained, that they’re industry norms. Three of these widely used tactics, or habits, in negotiations invariably produce ineffective (or failed) outcomes. The good news is that when these tactics are avoided, settlement outcomes improve dramatically.
Below are the habits and corresponding behavior modifications that can benefit your company.
Lump Sum Offers
The Habit: Adjusters nearly always present settlement offers in single lump-sum amounts. The problem is that a claim consists of multiple components (such as medical bills, injury, wage loss), and each has an independent value. Lump sums make it difficult, if not impossible, for the parties to understand the parts of a claim on which they agree or disagree. Such an understanding is essential for achieving a fair negotiation and accurate claim resolution.
Change it: Control the components of an offer. Make an offer with a breakdown of each of the components, backed up by data. Let’s say a claimant has three medical bills and a disc bulge in his neck. Instead of offering $7,500, the adjuster should outline what each component is worth. For example, “We are offering $2,250 on the chiropractic bill after reductions for usual and customary fees, as well as ongoing treatment that isn’t justified by the chiropractor’s records.” Follow this process for each of the other components. Adjusters will be surprised to find that they can reach agreement on some components very quickly, allowing them to narrow the discussion on items that remain to be settled.
Attacking vs. Questioning
The Habit: The most common response to a demand is to attack it. This is the adjuster’s way of demonstrating confidence and knowledge of the claim, even when they don’t have a good command of the details. This tactic adds friction to the discussion but does nothing to clarify how agreement can be reached. The “sparring” method doesn’t last long before a plaintiff attorney files suit or just stops negotiating. See our blog 14 Minutes to Litigation.
Change it: The best adjusters ask simple questions with confidence that bring facts to the surface, such as, “Can you explain why your client continued to treat with Dr. X, when his records show that she was not improving under his care?” In another example, if the plaintiff attorney says, “My client still has pain and difficulty picking up the grandkids,” the adjuster should ask, “Can you explain why the records indicate that she has regular range of motion and full strength?” Many plaintiff attorneys don’t know the facts of their case, which quickly gives the adjuster an advantage. When the plaintiff cannot answer the questions, the adjuster has more control over the course of a negotiation and ability to settle the claim at his/her designated offer.
“Take My Offer to Your Client.”
The Habit: We hear this line in every recorded negotiation we listen to. “Take this offer to your client” goes hand in hand with offering a lump sum. The plaintiff and attorney will have no way of understanding the offer’s components or underlying reasoning. An offer that is broken down by component and built upon an understanding of the plaintiff’s position is far more likely to generate a serious discussion between the plaintiff attorney and the client. A take-it-or-leave-it offer doesn’t explain the number you’re offering.
Change it: Instead, follow the component-based offer approach and make the offer in components. “Please explain to your client that the bill from the chiropractor has come into question because…..and we are only able to consider $2,250 of it. Also ask why your client continued treatment when the records indicate it wasn’t helping him.” The most important part of what should be relayed to the claimant are the reasons for an offer, not the offer itself.
In calls we’ve studied where adjusters effectively presented their offer by its individual components and asked questions, the following occurred:
The plaintiff’s attorney followed along on each bill
The adjuster secured agreement on most of the components for reduced amounts
Only a limited number of items needed negotiation
The plaintiff’s attorney was able to present far fewer (yet well defined) items to the client for discussion
The adjuster was much more likely to achieve a favorable claim outcome
These simple changes of habit during negotiations can drastically improve settlement outcomes.
We’d welcome your comments or inquiries on this important topic firstname.lastname@example.org.
Casentric is passionate about powerful negotiation techniques which improve settlement outcomes. Casentric’s CaseXpert® Injury Support™ program has delivered results for our customers for over three years. Please feel free to call us for more information.
Jim Kaiser, CEO
Steve Washington, COO