Not every case goes to court. In fact, most personal injury cases will settle long before they see a courtroom. Settlements are often a great conclusion to a personal injury case because the victim can get their money faster and the other party does not have to deal with the time and expense associated with a lawsuit.
One of the vital skills of personal injury attorneys is the ability to negotiate. A favorable settlement depends on the lawyer’s ability to strike a deal with the other side. The negotiation process is relatively straightforward.
- Determining What Your Case is Worth
Arguably the most important part of any settlement negotiation is to identify what your case is worth. Personal injury attorneys often have enough experience and knowledge to give you a general idea of what your case is worth based on your injuries and related losses. They can also look at past cases that may be similar to yours and make an estimate of what a judge or jury might award in a similar situation.
As a part of this process, the attorney will also consider the strengths and weaknesses of your legal claim. These could be potential defenses, lack of evidence, or other holes in your case from either a factual or legal standpoint.
- Making a Demand
The first step in the negotiation process usually involves making a demand to the insurance company or other party. This step often involves writing a letter to the other side that explains the facts of your case and why you believe that you are entitled to compensation. You can lay out an itemization of your damages if you are aware of those details at that time too. Even if you are not sure about actual dollar amounts, the demand letter will often at least mention the item in passing. For example, the letter may indicate that you will likely have to undergo future medical care related to your injury.
The demand letter sets out a specific dollar amount that you are willing to accept to settle the claim. Generally, personal injury attorneys will recommend that you start high, so you have some room to negotiate, but this may not be the best practice for every situation.
After the insurance company or opposing party has looked over your demand letter and conducted some investigation on their own, they will likely respond to your demand with a counteroffer. A counteroffer rejects your offer and proposes a new offer. Part of the counteroffer often involves pointing out weaknesses or potential problems with your case. It may respond to your points, or it may bring up entirely new topics.
Often, the other side will start very low to give them room to negotiate further as well. This process will go back and forth until the parties agree on a number. If the parties cannot agree, then the claim will often become litigated, and a judge or jury will decide whether the defense should win and you take nothing, or if you should be awarded all or part of your claimed damages.
There is a lot of strategy involved in negotiating a settlement, and personal injury attorneys are often skilled tacticians when it comes to settlement.