Negotiating a Full and Fair Settlement in a Personal Injury Case
When someone is injured in an auto accident or suffers another type of personal injury that another party was responsible for, it is not always easy to recover the full and fair compensation they deserve. Typically, you will be dealing with the other party’s insurance adjuster. Although in some cases, you might be dealing with your own insurer, such as when someone injures you and they do not have insurance. In either case, obtaining just compensation requires you to negotiate.
You might choose to negotiate directly with the insurance company, or you may hire a personal injury lawyer to handle this for you. If you decide to do this on your own, there will be some back and forth between you and the insurance adjuster. But before you even start the negotiation process, you need to know the type and extent of your injuries and begin appropriate treatment. Until you have this information, you will not have a good idea of how much compensation to ask for.
Negotiating a settlement with the insurance company can take as little as a few days or go on for several months or more. This depends largely on the complexity of the case, how badly you were injured, how much compensation you are willing to accept, and other specific circumstances.
Early on in the process, you may receive a quick settlement offer from the insurance company. Essentially, what they are offering is the opportunity to receive money right away in exchange for forfeiting your right to pursue additional compensation in the future. In simple cases in which your injuries are fairly minor, you might consider accepting an offer like this depending on what you are comfortable with. In most cases, however, it is generally better to decline this offer and wait until you know the full extent of your injuries.
If you do not want to accept an insurer’s initial offer, you can prepare a demand letter with a counter offer that more accurately reflects what your claim is worth. In valuing your claim, be sure to factor in both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses are those that are quantifiable, such as property damage, medical bills, time missed from work, and loss of earning capacity (if your injury is debilitating). Non-economic losses are intangibles such as physical pain and suffering, psychological distress, and diminished quality of life. It is more difficult to assign an exact dollar figure to these types of losses.
Once you have sent your demand letter and counter offer, the insurer may except your offer or decline your offer and send you a counter. The insurer might try to devalue the claim by saying that your injuries aren’t as serious as you make them out to be, you are partially at fault for the underlying accident, some (or all) of your injuries are not connected to the underlying accident, and other similar arguments. After a series of counters, you will hopefully arrive at a figure that both sides can live with.
One word of caution. Be aware of the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit. In Kentucky, for example, the statute of limitations is generally one or two years, depending on the specifics of the case. If negotiations go past the deadline, you may forfeit your right to take further legal action if you are not satisfied with the settlement negotiations. This will make it more difficult to receive a fair settlement, because the insurance company knows that you can no longer take them to court.
How an Attorney Can Assist you with Negotiations
Negotiating a full and fair settlement in a personal injury case can be a complicated and confusing process, especially if you are not familiar with how it works. There are many potential pitfalls that can cause you to end up by with a much lower settlement than you deserve. A skilled attorney can often help you negotiate a better deal.
There are several ways a personal injury lawyer can help with the negotiation process:
- A lawyer can properly value your claim based on a thorough investigation of all the facts and evidence of the case and their in-depth experience and knowledge of this area of the law;
- A lawyer can deal directly with the insurance adjuster, and they can put together the strongest possible argument to aggressively advocate for full and fair compensation;
- Lawyers often have relationships with top professionals in the medical field and other industries whom they can bring in as expert witnesses (when needed) to help substantiate your claim;
When an insurance adjuster is dealing with an experienced attorney, they know that the attorney has the proven ability to pursue full damages through personal injury litigation if the adjuster does not present a satisfactory offer. This gives the adjuster more incentive to give you a fair offer right out of the gate.