What to Expect When Negotiating a Personal Injury Settlement

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More than 95 percent of personal injury cases settle before going to trial, attorney James Hirby found after analyzing Justice Department data. Of the cases that do go to trial, Hirby determined that 90 percent of the plaintiffs end up losing. If you’ve suffered an injury as a result of negligence and want to be compensated for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering, know what to expect during the negotiation process. This was you can work with your attorney to get a favorable settlement.

Find Out Who’s Involved

After seeking medical attention and consulting an attorney, identify all parties involved. There may be one or multiple defendants, or the defendant may be a collective entity such as a corporation. Monetary recovery normally comes from the defendant’s insurance provider.

Contact Insurance Representatives

The next step is to contact the insurance provider. The insurer will assign an adjuster to investigate, and meanwhile, your own attorney will conduct a parallel investigation. The adjuster will first read a report to see what is being claimed. He or she will follow up by contacting you and getting your account of what happened. The adjuster will also request accident and police reports.

If you file an actual claim, the adjuster will send you a form letter requesting medical records and any other documentation. On his website, New York personal injury lawyer John Hochfelder advises if you receive such a request, don’t release your medical records to the other party’s insurance company (or even your own provider) without consulting your attorney first. You should also beware of an adjuster’s request to record your statement.

File Your Claim

By investigating your case, your attorney and the defendant’s insurance adjuster can both estimate the potential value of your claim, providing a basis for negotiation. Armed with this information, you can submit your claim in a formal written format, called a letter of demand of payment.

This letter describes your accident, identifies liability, details injuries and medical treatments, states financial losses and demands settlement. The law office of Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn provides some samples of common demand letters—but for best results, you should get an experienced attorney to write yours. Compensation options such as a one-time payout or a structured settlement (where the recipient agrees to receive regular payouts over a set time period) should be brought up in the letter.

Negotiate a Settlement

After sending a demand letter, you can begin negotiating—just make sure your primary physician has determined you have reached maximum medical improvement and are not anticipating further health bills. Wait for the defendant to make the first offer, and don’t leap to accept it. The defendant’s adjuster will dispute as much of your claim as they can in an attempt to lower the offer. Your attorney will respond and negotiate a counteroffer. This can take a few negotiation rounds before you reach an agreement. If you decide to accept a structured settlement, keep in mind that down the line you may be able to sell your future structured settlement payments and receive a lump sum of cash for them.