Most personal injury cases end with a settlement agreement between the parties. Negotiation is the process of resolving a disputed matter without going to trial.
While each personal injury case is different, there are specific steps that most cases follow as the parties work to negotiate a settlement. The steps apply whether you were injured in a car accident, motorcycle crash, or slip and fall accident (premises liability).
You can expect the negotiation process in a personal injury case to include:
Insurance Reservation of Rights Letter
The insurance company for the opposing party may send a reservation of rights letter. The letter explains that the company received and is investigating your claim. The letter is not a denial or admittance of liability.
Your personal injury lawyer will investigate the cause of the accident and your injury. An independent accident investigation aims to gather evidence proving that the other party caused your damages.
To recover compensation for damages, you typically must prove:
- The opposing party owed you a duty of care;
- The opposing party’s conduct or omissions breached that duty of care;
- The breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the accident and your injury; and
- You sustained damages because the opposing party breached their duty of care.
Your attorney will identify each party that contributed to the cause of your injury. As a result, two or more parties could share liability for your injuries. Your lawyer will also verify insurance coverage and file claims with each insurance provider.
The insurance providers for the at-fault parties also investigate the accident. The companies gather evidence they can use to undervalue or deny your claim.
It is important to remember that your statements and actions after an injury can significantly impact the outcome of your case. Generally, it is best to avoid talking to insurance adjusters until you seek legal advice. Providing a written or recorded statement without consulting with an attorney could hurt your case.
Also, you may want to avoid social media and online posts after an accident or injury. Defense lawyers and insurance investigators search for online material they can use to support their claim that you were not injured in the accident or your injuries are not as severe as you claim.
Complete Your Medical Treatment Plan
After an accident or injury, prompt medical treatment improves your chance of recovering maximum compensation for your claim. The opposing party may raise allegations of failure to mitigate damages if you delay medical care.
You also need to complete medical care before accepting a settlement offer. Until you complete your doctor’s treatment plan, you cannot know whether you sustained a disability or permanent impairment. Permanent impairments and disabilities increase the value of personal injury claims by adding compensation for future lost wages, long-term nursing care, and ongoing medical treatment.
Settlement Demand Letter
Your Los Angeles personal injury lawyer will send a settlement demand letter to the insurance company. A settlement demand letter is an offer to resolve the claim for a specific amount of money.
The letter includes:
- A summary of the facts of the case, including how the accident/injury occurred
- A description of your injuries
- A legal analysis of the statutes and laws that create liability for damages
- An explanation and valuation of damages
- The amount you are willing to accept to resolve the claim
Your attorney may enclose copies of medical records, expert opinions, accident reports, and other evidence supporting your allegations of fault and liability. The insurance company will review the demand and respond accordingly. The company may accept the demand, issue a counteroffer, or deny the claim.
In many cases, the insurance company makes a counteroffer for a lower amount. As a result, the personal injury attorney and the insurance company may continue back-and-forth negotiations until both parties agree to a settlement amount.
Your lawyer will prepare a settlement agreement outlining the settlement terms. The agreement releases all parties from any further liability for your claim. In other words, you give up your right to seek more money by filing a lawsuit.
Factors That Impact Settlement Negotiations
Numerous factors impact settlement negotiations. Some factors assist the personal injury victim, but other factors could negatively impact your case. An experienced personal injury lawyer works to maximize the factors that increase the value of your claim while working to minimize factors that could hurt your case.
Some factors to consider when negotiating a personal injury settlement include:
California’s Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a deadline for filing a legal action. Most personal injury claims in California have a two-year deadline from the injury date. However, there are exceptions.
For example, claims against government entities may have a six-month deadline for filing claims. Seek legal advice as soon as possible to avoid missing the applicable filing deadline.
Allegations of Comparative Negligence
California’s comparative negligence law does not prevent a party from recovering money for an injury if they contributed to the cause of the injury. However, if you are partially to blame for the cause of your injury, the amount of money you receive can be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Disabling Conditions and Impairments
If you sustained a permanent impairment or disability, you could receive additional compensation for future damages. Your attorney may hire expert witnesses to assist in valuing future damages to maximize recovery.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact an attorney for help negotiating with insurance companies and other parties. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney is a skilled negotiator and experienced trial lawyer. They’ll work to recover maximum compensation for your damages through negotiations. However, they will also aggressively fight cases in court if insurance companies refuse to negotiate in good faith.