A personal injury claim is not a lawsuit. Most personal injury settlements occur without ever filing a lawsuit. Instead, the parties negotiate a reasonable settlement.
The negotiating process in a personal injury case depends on the specifics of the case. The settlement negotiation process may only involve an initial settlement offer and acceptance of that offer.
However, the negotiating process for most claims involves back-and-forth negotiations between the injured party and the insurance company for the at-fault party.
When you sign a final settlement agreement, you give up the right to file a lawsuit or seek additional compensation from any parties involved in your injury case. For that reason, it is wise to talk with a personal injury lawyer before you accept a settlement offer or sign any documents for the insurance company.
Steps in the Negotiating Process for a Personal Injury Claim
Each case is unique. Therefore, the steps you take to settle your personal injury case may be slightly different from the steps taken in another case.
However, there are basic steps involved in all personal injury cases.
Seek Medical Treatment for Injuries
It is crucial for you to seek medical care as quickly as possible after an accident or injury. First, you need medical records to support your claim that the other party’s conduct caused your injuries.
Second, delays in medical care could give the other party valid defenses to your injury claim.
For example, a delay in medical treatment could worsen your condition. As a result, the insurance adjuster may argue that your failure to mitigate damages by seeking prompt medical care decreases the value of your claim.
Waiting to see a doctor could result in the insurance company arguing that the accident did not cause your injuries. The company may allege that if you had been injured, you would have seen a doctor sooner.
Your injuries directly impact the amount of time it takes to settle a personal injury claim. Therefore, settling your claim before you complete medical care could result in a much lower settlement amount.
File an Insurance Claim
As soon as possible, file a claim with the insurance company for the at-fault party. You need not discuss your injuries or damages to file a claim. You only need to notify the insurance company that you have a claim.
The insurance company will assign an insurance adjuster to investigate your claim.
Be careful when you speak to a claims adjuster. The adjuster has years of experience handling claims. If possible, insurance adjusters will try to get you to say things that could be used to deny liability for your claim or undervalue damages.
Allowing a lawyer to handle all communications with the insurance company is best. Your attorney understands tactics used by insurance companies and how to protect you from unfair and bad faith insurance practices.
Reservation of Rights Letter
You may receive a Reservation of Rights Letter from the insurance company. The letter is not a denial or approval of your injury claim.
The letter merely acknowledges your claim and informs you that the insurance company will investigate the claim. The company reserves the right to deny your claim.
Gather Evidence and Documentation
You have the burden of proving that the other party is liable for your damages. Most personal injury claims are based on negligence.
The legal elements of a negligence claim are:
- Duty of Care – A legal duty owed to you by the at-fault party
- Breach of Duty – Failing to use a level of care that an ordinarily prudent person would have used in the same situation
- Causation – The breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries
- Damages – You incurred damages because of the at-fault party’s breach of duty
You must have evidence proving each legal element for an injury claim. Otherwise, you cannot establish liability for damages.
An attorney has the resources to investigate the cause of your injury to gather evidence establishing liability. If the insurance company denies liability for a claim, you need to contact an injury lawyer immediately.
Prepare a Settlement Demand Letter
A settlement demand letter contains an initial offer of settlement. The letter outlines the facts of the case and the legal reasons the other party is responsible for your injuries and damages.
A demand letter also details your injuries, financial losses, and pain & suffering.
Economic damages for a personal injury case can include:
- Lost wages
- Nursing care
- Medical expenses
- Diminished earning capacity
- Personal care and household services
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Physical, occupational, and other therapies
You can also recover compensation for your non-economic damages. These damages relate to the pain and suffering you experienced and the severity of your injuries.
Non-economic damages include:
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Mental and emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Physical pain
- Disabilities and impairments
- Decrease in quality of life
The letter concludes with a specific amount you agree to accept to settle the injury claim. That settlement demand is based on the level of fault for each party, the severity of your injuries, the amount of monetary losses, and other factors relevant to your claim.
Negotiate a Settlement Amount
Reject an offer that is lower than the amount you demanded for settlement. Insurance companies routinely make settlement offers much lower than the value of damages. When you reject the offer, make a counteroffer for an amount you believe is fair given the facts of your case.
Negotiation of a personal injury claim is often a back-and-forth process of making counteroffers. At some point, the insurance company will make a final settlement offer.
You must decide whether you will accept the amount to resolve your injury claim. If not, you need to file a lawsuit and take the case to court. A skilled injury lawyer will help you weigh the pros and cons to determine the best option for your situation.
Sign a Settlement Agreement and Receive a Check
The settlement agreement releases all parties from any further liability for the claim. Most agreements do not contain an admission of fault. Instead, the at-fault party states that it does not admit liability but is willing to pay a specific amount to settle the dispute.
Always seek legal advice before signing a settlement agreement or accepting a check. However, it is best not to wait to talk with a lawyer.
The statute of limitations for most personal injury cases in Kentucky is one year from the date of injury (two years for motor vehicle accidents). However, there could be exceptions, so talk with a lawyer now to avoid missing the deadline to file a personal injury claim.
Contact a Lexington Personal Injury Lawyer For Help During the Negotiating Process of Your Personal Injury Claim
Were you hurt because of another person’s negligence? If so, you could be entitled to substantial compensation for injuries. Call an experienced Lexington injury lawyer to schedule a free case evaluation at (859) 550-2900 and get help negotiating your claim.