The Insurance Adjuster's "Nuisance" Value of Your Claim

Even if the insurance company is right in claiming no liability for your injury, you may be able to get a "nuisance settlement".

On the spectrum of potential accident and injury settlement value, there are multi-million dollar claims on one side, and "nuisance value" settlements on the other. In this article, we'll discuss what a nuisance value claim means, and show you how you may still have room to negotiate even if the adjuster gives your claim the dreaded "nuisance" label.

What is "Nuisance Value"?

Insurance adjusters think some claims are worth nothing at all. But what makes a claim a "nuisance" claim? The reasons behind this kind of determination vary, but some common justifications -- from the adjuster's standpoint anyway -- are:

  • the person making the claim was completely at fault
  • someone other than the insured person was completely at fault (meaning the adjuster shouldn't be on the financial hook)
  • the claimant’s injuries were not caused by the accident, or
  • the claimant had no real injuries at all.

In each of these situations, an insurance adjuster may at first completely deny the injured person’s claim, saying that the insurance company will not pay any compensation.

In many cases, though, an insurance adjuster’s initial refusal to make any settlement will eventually turn into an offer to settle the case for a small amount known as “nuisance value.” The term comes from the insurance company’s idea that it is better to pay a little bit of money than to have to deal with the nuisance of a claim that will not go away. Insurance adjusters won’t usually use the term nuisance value, but when they make a very low offer bearing no relation to the damages formula, that’s what they’re doing.

As with all other categories in accident settlements, there is no fixed amount for a nuisance value settlement. In claims with medical bills under a thousand dollars, a nuisance value settlement is often equal to the amount of the medical bills -- or even half of the medical bills -- with nothing for income loss, pain and suffering, general damages, or anything else.

Where the person filing the claim is not able to show any real injuries -- small medical bills, soft tissue injury that no doctor has been able to diagnose -- an insurance adjuster will often make a nuisance value offer of $500 or $750. On the other hand, if there are medical bills and lost income in the thousands of dollars, and a serious, painful, or permanent injury -- all of which would cause the damages formula to come out with a figure of as much as $10,000 to $15,000 -- a nuisance value settlement could be $2,000 to $3,000.

Even Nuisance Value Is Negotiable

Even when all you will get out of a claim is its nuisance value, remember that any offer of settlement is negotiable. So if you are forced by the circumstances of your accident to settle for some nuisance value amount, you don’t have to take the first amount offered. Nuisance value figures probably won’t change too much through bargaining, but if you can get an adjuster to move from $500 to $1,000, for example, it certainly will have been worth that extra phone call or two of negotiation.

This article is excerpted from How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Attorney Joseph Matthews (Nolo).

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