Filing a personal injury claim is far from easy. If you were injured or a loved one was killed due to someone else’s egregious negligence, especially if you were harmed by toxins in your environment, the process of filing a claim and eventually receiving monetary compensation for losses is time consuming and tedious. Plaintiff attorneys help people deal with the mound of paperwork and maze of legal steps necessary to ensure they receive compensation for their injury claims.
If you choose to go it alone and attempt to file a claim and collect money without the assistance of an experienced plaintiff attorney, there are some things you need to know, especially when negotiation time arrives. While we would not suggest you begin the process of filing an injury claim without a lawyer, if you insist on doing so, you’ll need to know what to expect.
Many people don’t realize that well over 90% of personal injury cases never make it to a courtroom; most are settled through the insurance companies after negotiation. In some cases, the settlements are obtained quickly while in others, it takes longer. It often depends on the nature and severity of the injuries as well as the complexity of the case.
Having an experienced plaintiff lawyer on your side not only speeds up the process of getting compensated for your losses, it also ensures you get the full financial settlement you deserve.
Negotiation: What to Expect
When claim process is nearing the end, and the defendant’s insurance company should have all the information it needs to see that your injuries are real, their actual and projected long-term costs, it’s time to negotiate a settlement. If you are not satisfied with the amount offered, only then will you need to go to trial.
Preparing Your Claim
The process of negotiation begins as soon as the claim is filed. The “Three P’s” of negotiation are as follows: Preparation, patience and persistence. You will need the Three P’s to fight the Three D’s of the opposing insurance company: Deny, Delay, Defend.
Entering into a negotiation without adequate preparation makes you vulnerable to the tactics of the claims adjuster. The insurance company is looking for problems and mistakes that could cost you thousands or more. Although negotiation is faster than trying the case to a jury, the negotiation process can still seem to move at a snail’s pace.
Taking longer to reach an agreement can be an advantage to the other side as their attorneys have more time to think about their next step in the process if the negotiations don’t end there.
The same is true for persistence. Getting a very low initial offer is a tactic the claims adjuster and corporate defendants use to test you. Never enter the negotiation process without knowing what your case is worth. Once you submit your claim, make sure your evidence documents the causation and confirms the seriousness of your injuries and the need for ongoing medical treatment.
The Personal Injury Negotiation Process
Your claim must be reported as soon as possible after the incident – or, in the case of a toxic tort – as soon as you become aware of the situation that caused your injuries.
The insurance company will often take the next step of sending you a “reservation of rights letter,” which informs you of any problems with coverage and liability. These letters can be confusing to the layperson, so you may need to contact a lawyer this early in the process for assistance.
Once you have obtained medical treatment, you should send work with a lawyer and prepare a demand letter to the insurance company, which includes:
Details of what caused your injuries
- Your itemized damages, including your medical expenses, lost income, and any out-of-pocket expenses including co-pays and car rental fees.
- Damages for pain and suffering. A multiplier is used to determine the amount of compensation you should receive for pain and suffering. The multiplier is based on the severity of the injuries, how long they last, and the pain you endure. Serious injuries often require pain management treatment. Long-term injuries and those that last a lifetime will cause more pain and suffering than the injuries that will heal fairly quickly.
Once you submit a demand letter, the insurance company’s claims adjuster should respond. The adjuster may call you to make an offer or provide you with a return letter that includes a written offer. Don’t talk to the adjuster directly. It is always best to consult with an experienced lawyer whose knowledge and expertise will help you negotiate a better settlement.
Typically, the next step is to write a response letter to the claims adjuster rejecting the offer and, if you are ready, including a counteroffer. The goal at this point is to keep the negotiations going without agreeing to a significant reduction in the amount.
Negotiation is a process of back-and-forth. Sometimes it can be difficult to wait on a response to your counteroffer. Patience is crucial at this point.
If the claims adjuster accepts your last offer, they will notify you of the settlement agreement. At this point, the negotiations are over, and you will receive the settlement amount you submitted last. If they don’t accept your final offer, they may respond with another counter offer or what they call their final settlement offer.
There are many steps involved here, and it’s not as simply as just receiving a check in the mail and cashing it. If you feel their final offer is too low or otherwise inadequate, you can reject it, and your attorney will advise you on next steps. In many cases, you have to prepare for trial and only when the defendant and the defendant’s insurer realizes you are serious will they be willing to compromise and offer a reasonable settlement.