By Logan Quirk
Accidents happen, and we all understand that. Still, some accidents may be products of negligence rather than a random occurrence of bad luck. In this case, you may need to seek a personal injury settlement to receive fair compensation.
So, how do you go about pursuing a settlement? The process can be a bit complicated. Don’t assume that the other side will accept what you’re claiming in personal injury cases.
The negotiation process won’t be easy, but it’s one you need to undertake. Paying for all the bills related to your injury can get expensive in a hurry. Fight for the compensation that’s rightfully yours by following the tips in this article.
Consult with Your Doctor
The first thing you need to do as you try to settle your case is to consult with your doctor. This step is crucial because you need to know the severity of your injuries and how long they could affect you. You may also require further treatment down the line, depending on what kind of injury you have.
A big chunk of whatever settlement you may receive will go towards your medical bills. It’s important to know early on how costly these bills may turn out to be.
Later, the details provided by your doctor can also inform you better when the time comes for you to present an offer to the other side. Plus, it’s never a bad thing to have a medical professional backing you up in personal injury cases.
Partner with a Personal Injury Lawyer
Legal negotiations often get quite confusing. The other side could deploy tactics designed to misinform or intimidate you. They may also go in the opposite direction and pretend to be on your side while encouraging you to accept a settlement that’s well below what it should be.
The bottom line is that the other side will try to avoid handing out a big payout as much as they can. They will employ any tactics necessary to do so.
You need to prepare for things the other side will do, and the best way to get ready is by partnering with a legal professional injury lawyer.
Personal injury lawyers have plenty of experience dealing with insurance companies and their hired defense lawyers. They’ve seen it all, and they can use what they know to prepare you for what could turn out to be an arduous negotiation process.
Gathering evidence is an important preparatory step before you jump into the negotiation process. The steps already mentioned above will also help when it comes time to collect evidence.
Apart from the negotiations, a personal injury lawyer can help while you’re building your case.
For instance, a lawyer can help deal with law enforcement. They can talk to the police who investigated the incident and ask about their findings. The police may already have a clear idea that the other side is at fault, and that could turn out to be huge for you.
A lawyer can also get in touch with witnesses who saw what happened. After talking to the witnesses, your lawyer can gather statements that will bolster your case further.
Meanwhile, your doctor can vouch for the legitimacy of your injuries and the amount of money you’re seeking. A doctor can point to why the amount you’re seeking is justified, given all your injuries and the long-term effects they may have.
You can force the insurance company’s hand if you show them that the facts are on your side. They will be more amenable to a settlement in that scenario.
Examine the Insurance Company’s History Regarding Settlements
Not all insurance companies operate the same way when it comes to contested injury claims. Some companies would prefer not going to court and are more open to negotiating for a personal injury settlement. Others are insistent on not settling for anything, and they’re also confident that their lawyers can help tilt the odds in their favor.
Do yourself a favor and check on an insurance provider’s history first before you proceed with your plans. You may end up spending a lot of time coming up with negotiating strategies only to find out that the company has no interest in going down that road.
Prepare to Receive a Reservation of Rights Letter
Once the insurance company knows that you’re filing a claim, they may start to act as well. Among the first things they may do is send you a reservation of rights letter.
So, what is a reservation of rights letter? According to Investopedia, a reservation of rights letter is something an insurance company sends to serve notice that they may not cover a particular claim. Also found inside the letter are important details regarding the claim and the policy involved.
It’s important to note here that receiving a reservation of rights letter does not automatically mean that the insurance agency will deny your claim. The purpose of the letter is to let you know that the company is investigating your claim closely. The company may also indicate in the letter that they reserve the right to deny your claim after they complete their investigation.
A reservation of rights letter can be intimidating, but don’t let it get the best of you. The insurance company may only be attempting to spook you into making an unfavorable deal.
If you’re still feeling uneasy, talk to your lawyer about the letter and let them check if there’s anything you need to worry about. Chances are that the letter doesn’t change a whole lot for you, and you can still proceed with your plans.
Figure Out How Much the Personal Injury Settlement Should Be
The next step in this process is to determine how much you should ask for during the settlement negotiations. Annuity.org notes that you need to account for several factors when trying to come up with the right settlement amount. That means we should get into compensatory damages.
Compensatory damages are the financial awards given to plaintiffs. They are supposed to serve as compensation for any injuries and losses that the plaintiff suffered because of someone else’s negligence.
They put compensatory damages into two categories, which are actual and general damages.
Actual damages, which lawyers sometimes refer to as special damages, account for the plaintiff’s quantifiable monetary lessons. Medical bills usually make up the bulk of the actual damages, but they may also account for property damage and the plaintiff losing their job or wages due to the injuries they sustained.
General damages refer to the losses that cannot be easily quantified. Examples of general damages are mental anguish, the loss of enjoyment of life, and potentially missed job opportunities caused by the injuries. There are different ways to calculate for general damages, so ask your lawyer about them.
After you finish noting the actual and general damages in your case, you should come up with a good target number for your settlement. Moving forward, you can work off that number as you continue negotiating with the other side.
Adjust the Settlement Amount if Necessary
You cannot easily attribute fault in all accident cases. Sometimes, only one party is at fault, but there are also cases where both sides can be held responsible for what happened.
You need to be honest with your lawyer about that kind of thing. If you are partially responsible for the car accident, your claim also must reflect that. Acknowledge that you’re accepting partial responsibility for the incident to increase the chances that you’ll take home a favorable compensation.
Adjusting the compensation, you’re seeking may also be necessary, depending on how many plaintiffs are involved in your case.
Present Your Offer to the Other Party
You’ve gathered the evidence, calculated the damages, and made the adjustments. You are now ready to present your offer to the other side.
Letting your lawyer handle this part of the process is a good idea. Your lawyer will compose a demand letter and send it to either the defendant or their insurance company.
Wait for the Response
Now that you’ve sent the demand letter detailing your offer to the other side, you need to wait for their response. You should know that the other party may respond in a variety of ways.
In a best-case scenario, the other side will agree to the terms laid out in your demand letter, and they will send the settlement payment shortly. That doesn’t happen often, but it’s still a possibility.
The other party may also respond by contacting you. They may express their disagreement with your demand and put an end to the negotiations. You’re probably going to court after that.
Alternatively, they could also respond and not agree to your offer, but they may submit a counteroffer. They may even come up with other potential ways to resolve this matter.
Don’t be surprised if the other side doesn’t respond. If that happens, expect to go to court if you want this issue sorted out.
Don’t Accept Their First Offer
We mentioned that one of the possible responses to your demand letter is the other side submitting a counteroffer. Don’t accept that first offer right away, though.
Their initial counteroffer may be way too low by design. They may be trying to throw you off and make you second-guess the calculations you used to come up with your initial offer. Take that as a sign that you have a long ways to go in your negotiations.
The other side may also provide a more reasonable counteroffer. It could even be close to the settlement amount you requested.
Still, you shouldn’t accept that more reasonable offer immediately. Since they already made that offer, it’s not outlandish to think that they are willing to compromise to get this matter over and done with. You could end up receiving more money by negotiating a bit more.
Ask Why They Made Such a Low Offer
As we noted earlier, the insurance company may present you with a low counteroffer on purpose. Don’t allow that to slide. Take this opportunity to ask why they made such an offer.
After they respond, examine their answers, and see if their reasons make sense. Check if they are good enough reasons to justify what you can easily interpret as a lowball offer.
By asking them to discuss their counteroffer, you may catch them deploying a tactic. They may understand their offer is unreasonable, and you may be able to justify increasing your demands after that.
On the other hand, they may not have perceived their offer as unfair. They may be more open to negotiations once you’ve shined a light on that.
Remain Patient and Calm throughout the Negotiation Process
Negotiating a personal injury settlement is going to take a long time. Even if you and your lawyer collected evidence and finished the calculations quickly, the process can still get bogged down once it reaches the point where the two sides need to interact.
You must stay patient.
If the other party knows that you’re getting antsy, they may continue sending only low offers until you eventually cave. You could end up unfairly compensated by showing your impatience.
Staying calm is important.
We understand how frustrating it can be to wait for your compensation after an accident. Still, you cannot lose your cool and start sending threatening messages to the insurance company. They can use that as evidence against you if the case winds up in court.
Get the Settlement Agreement in Writing
Following a long and exhausting negotiation process, you and the insurance company may finally have an agreement in place. With the numbers finalized, you should get the agreement in writing. Don’t give the insurance company a chance to back out of the deal the two of you made.
Hopefully, the negotiations for your personal injury settlement will turn out well. To increase the chances of that happening, you will need an experienced lawyer by your side.
We at the Quirk Law Group are ready to help if you need the services of a personal injury lawyer. Contact us today and let us help you navigate the negotiations.