Negotiating With Insurance Adjusters

Many shop owners and managers tell me that they are tired of fighting with insurers and find every interaction draining.

One of the reasons these “negotiations” are so draining is that they feel more like a fight than a professional negotiation.

Does this sound familiar?

Twenty years ago, I remember removing an insurance adjuster from the body shop I worked at because he insisted that I purchase a used door from “his vendor” instead of the trusted vendor I wanted to use.

At the time, I was proud of how I stood up for my principles. Now, I admit I am a little ashamed. I was unprofessional, unprepared and probably created an enemy for life.

However, I learned from that experience. I read books like “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I eventually became a person who was respected by the majority of the insurance adjusters I worked with.

This wasn’t because I caved into their company’s demands, but for a couple of reasons I share below. Here are four tips that will help you become a better negotiator:

  1. State your case with facts

One of the biggest reasons shop owners and managers struggle is because they don’t know how to build a case. You must be prepared with OEM procedures, for example. Building a bulletproof file is not only important for negotiations, but it also protects you and your shop!

When you negotiate without facts or clear standards of what is and what is not acceptable to you, it will likely become an arbitrary argument where nobody wins.

After using this strategy for many years, I actually had insurance companies send their people to shadow my team and learn about proper car repair.

  1. Trust

When you stick to the facts and avoid ego-driven arbitration, you can earn trust. Insurers may not always agree with you or be willing to pay for everything you ask; however, you are far more inclined to get paid if they trust you.

Shops employees tell me all the time, “Because I do proper repairs and demand to get paid what I deserve, XYZ insurance company goes out of its way to direct work away from me.” This may be true from time to time, but in most cases, the shop is unprofessional and trust has not been established. It is an EGO-led shop, not one based on facts and professionalism.

  1. Remove the EGO

Many shop owners and managers are tired of the fight because they enter every negotiation already on the defensive. When you are emotional and don’t focus on the facts, it is extremely easy to lose your cool and you’re likely to lose every time.

If you get angry or frustrated during a negotiation, it’s usually best to reset. Take a walk and/or a deep breath, and then refocus on what matters most.

When you negotiate like it’s a competition where there is a winner and loser, that is your EGO getting in the way. Instead, focus on the facts and present them professionally.

  1. See things from the other person’s perspective

This is something I learned years ago from Dale Carnegie. It’s too easy to see insurance representatives as the enemy. To me, they are not. As long as you view them this way, you will never build a relationship of trust with them.

Remember, they are at your shop to do a job. They have rules to follow and a boss to answer to. Taking a moment to see things from their perspective does NOT mean you are caving into their demands; instead, it gives you great insight you can use to present your case.

It’s important to understand that insurance representatives are often just as worried as you are. They may be on the defensive even before coming through your front door. Do what you can to build rapport by seeing things from their perspective.

In some cases, I’ve offered appraisers suggestions on how they can explain to their supervisors what I am asking for on the repair estimate so they won’t take a lot of heat. As a result, I was paid what I needed to repair the vehicle properly and made a trusted ally in the process.

You may not always get everything you are asking for, but I guarantee if they are approaching the negotiation with their defensive walls up, they are not thinking clearly and you will probably end up in an ego-driven fight.

To sum up…

Whether you consider the person you are negotiating with a friend or a foe, lead with respect by attempting to get to know him or her. As Chinese General Sun Tzu said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

For more information, become a member of of Elite Body Shop Solutions’ online body shop management training community. Join Operations Monthly Live (OML), an online management training program and community of high performers. Here you’ll find hours of world-class training, including information about creating an accurate repair plan, body shop scheduling, body shop culture and customer sustainability. With a very affordable OML subscription, you can join me live for an hour each month, where you will learn a new, relevant topic and be able to ask questions while interacting with many of North America’s best collision operators. A new lesson has been added to the Operations Monthly Live library called “Elite Level Customer Service,” where independent repairers can learn how to increase the growth of their businesses with little or no money.

To learn more, subscribe to the Dave Luehr YouTube channel and visit the Elite Body Shop Academy at

About the Author:

Dave shares his experience from over 30 years as a collision repair industry leader in leadership, lean and Theory of Constraints. Once the owner of a body shop himself, Dave draws on the realities of a real world collision repair shop in his consulting, writing and keynote speeches.

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