Personal injury plaintiffs resolve over 90% of all personal injury claims through negotiation. Most plaintiffs consider settlement superior to trial because it is quicker, easier, and cheaper. Nevertheless, it is important to take advantage of the negotiating skills and legal knowledge that a personal injury lawyer can offer.
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The Negotiation Process in a Personal Injury Case
Following is a description of the progression of events involved in a typical personal injury settlement negotiation:
- The demand letter: In the demand letter, you explain the basis of your claim, state why the opposing party is liable, and demand compensation.
- The reservation of rights letter: The insurance company reserves the right to refuse your claim if the facts and law don’t justify it. Reservation of rights letters are routine, and they are nothing to get upset about.
- Offers and counteroffers: The offer/counteroffer stage may take a while.
- Drafting the settlement agreement: Ideally, your lawyer will draft the agreement. Otherwise, they should at least review it and demand any necessary changes.
- Finalizing the settlement: To finalize the settlement, both parties must sign the settlement agreement. You must also formally withdraw any lawsuit you may have initiated against the opposing party.
- Payment of compensation: The opposing party will send the settlement funds to your lawyer, who will disburse them to you minus any applicable deductions.
This procedure may be interrupted if you file a lawsuit. Nevertheless, filing a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean you will go to triaI. In fact, settlement is still the most probable outcome.
Personal Injury Claim Negotiation Tips
Following are a few negotiation tips to consider during the Florida personal injury claim process.
- Suspend your social media accounts until your settlement money is in your hand. The contents of your accounts can be used as evidence against you.
- Know the statute of limitations deadline for your claim, and do not let it pass without either a lawsuit or a signed settlement agreement. Florida generally gives you four years after the accident, but exceptions exist.
- Gather as much admissible evidence as you can before you begin negotiating. This will improve your bargaining position.
- If possible, wait until you reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) before you begin negotiating. Reaching MMI will help you calculate your medical expenses.
- Know the value of your claim before you begin negotiating. You don’t need to calculate it down to the last cent, but you should have a ballpark estimate based on objective evidence.
- Back up all of your assertions with objective evidence to the extent possible.
- Don’t allow the other side to “lowball” you. Immediately dismiss a settlement offer that is ridiculously low. You may need money, but you don’t need to settle just to expedite the processing of your claim.
- Ask the opposing party to justify the amount of their offer.
- Don’t fall for any insurance adjuster’s tactics, such as recording an interview with you, asking you trick questions, and using your answers against you.
- File a lawsuit if the other side gets too stubborn. Filing a lawsuit will allow you to demand evidence that is in the opposing party’s possession, with court sanctions if they refuse to comply. You can still settle your claim and withdraw your lawsuit at any time before the final verdict.
- If the discovery process uncovers game-changing evidence in your favor, take advantage of the strong bargaining position this gives you.
The most important advice of all is to refuse to allow the opposing party to talk you into representing yourself. If your claim is reasonably large, let a personal injury lawyer handle all negotiations for you. Remember that your lawyer cannot settle your claim without your permission.
Negotiating Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages represent personal harm, such as pain and suffering and mental anguish. Even though these harms are intangible, they make up much more than half the value of many personal injury claims. Don’t hesitate to place a value on intangible claims. In a pain and suffering claim, for example, you can calculate a daily amount, or you can identify a number between 1.5 and 5 and multiply that by your economic damages.
Negotiating Long-Term and Future Damages
If you anticipate further losses after negotiations end, as is the case for many long-term injuries, you might need an expert to help you calculate the value of damages that might not arise until years from now. You must demand all the damages you will ever need, all at once. If you don’t, you could find yourself in financial distress many years from now.
Contact a St. Petersburg Personal Injury Lawyer for Help Negotiating a Fair Settlement
It is unwise to represent yourself in personal injury claim negotiations. Unless you know personal injury law inside and out, this advice applies even if you are an expert negotiator.
Opposing parties won’t even try to use a lot of their tricks against a personal injury lawyer with a strong track record. Indeed, the best way to stay out of court is to hire a lawyer with a history of winning in court. The opposing party will likely settle to avoid facing your lawyer at trial.