A personal injury case is a dispute between two or more parties. One party claims the other party (or parties) caused their injury and should pay compensation for damages. Negotiation is the process of settling a dispute without going to trial.
Most personal injury cases are resolved through settlement negotiations. Each personal injury case is different, but many of the steps in the negotiation process are the same. If you file a personal injury claim, you can expect the negotiation process to include the following:
Reservation of Rights Letter From the Insurance Company
When you file an insurance claim with the other party’s liability insurance provider, the company might send you a Reservation of Rights letter. The letter explains that the company intends to investigate your claim.
The letter does not deny or approve the claim and is not an admittance of liability. Instead, the letter acknowledges your claim and protects the company’s right to investigate the claim.
Investigation and Gathering Evidence
The injured party has the burden of proving the other party is liable for their injuries and damages. Therefore, they must have evidence proving the legal elements of negligence, strict liability, intentional torts, or other causes of action for personal injury.
For most personal injury cases, you must prove the following:
- The other party owed you a legal duty of care;
- The party breached the duty of care through their acts or omissions;
- The breach of duty was the proximate and direct cause of the accident and injuries; and,
- You incurred damages because of the breach of duty.
Your personal injury lawyer conducts an independent investigation to gather evidence proving the above legal requirements. An insurance adjuster investigates the claim for the insurance company.
Allowing your lawyer to handle all communication with the insurance company is best. Anything you say to the company or its representatives could be twisted and intentionally misinterpreted to allege you admitted fault for the accident.
Comparative negligence laws can reduce the amount you receive for a personal injury claim if you are partially at fault. The insurance company might try to shift blame to you, so you must be careful what you do and say during a personal injury case.
Complete Medical Treatment
The severity of your injuries directly impacts the timeline for a personal injury case. You do not want to negotiate a settlement until you reach maximum medical improvement. If you sustained a permanent impairment, your doctor issues an impairment rating.
Permanent impairments can significantly impact how much your personal injury case is worth. If you have an impairment, you might be entitled to future economic damages for ongoing medical treatment, future loss of income, and long-term care. You may also be entitled to compensation for diminished quality of life and other types of non-economic damages.
Preparing a Settlement Demand Letter
Your lawyer prepares a settlement demand letter after you complete medical treatment and they complete the investigation of your claim. The settlement demand letter includes the following:
- A description of how the accident or personal injury occurred
- A detailed description of your injuries, including permanent impairments
- A discussion of the statutes and case law that create liability for your damages
- A description of your damages
- The amount you agree to accept to settle the claim
Your attorney creates a package to send with the letter. The settlement demand package includes copies of medical records, accident reports, proof of financial losses, and other evidence supporting your claim.
Engaging in Settlement Negotiation
The insurance company reviews your settlement demand and responds. It can accept or decline your settlement offer. The insurance company often returns a counteroffer to settle for a lower amount.
Experienced personal injury attorneys understand how insurance companies handle claims. Therefore, they based their initial offer on the assumption the insurance company would counteroffer. Your lawyer and the insurance company could negotiate back and forth for several weeks or longer.
If the insurance company agrees to a fair settlement amount, your lawyer prepares a settlement agreement. Once all parties sign the agreement, the insurance company sends your lawyer a settlement check to close the claim.
It is always wise to seek legal advice before you accept a settlement offer or sign a settlement agreement. The settlement agreement releases all parties from further liability for your claim. Since this is your one attempt to obtain a fair settlement, you want to ensure the amount you accept is sufficient to cover your losses.
The insurance adjuster will not tell you whether the amount the company offers is fair. Instead, you want to consult an attorney to determine whether the offer is fair.
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases
The negotiation process can take time, especially in cases involving catastrophic injuries, disputes regarding liability, and permanent impairments. Therefore, your lawyer will monitor the statute of limitations closely. Your attorney might advise you it is time to file a personal injury lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to agree to a fair settlement amount.
Schedule Your Free Consultation With Our Personal Injury Lawyers
At Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers, our personal injury attorneys are fierce negotiators. We fight to recover maximum compensation for your personal injury claim. Contact our law firm by calling (602) 595-5559 today to schedule your free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney.