A personal injury case is a dispute between two parties. An injured person claims that another party is responsible for causing their injuries. The injured party seeks compensation for their damages.
Most personal injury claims are settled through negotiation. Injury attorneys have strong negotiating skills. They work to obtain a settlement that compensates their client fairly for all damages, including the pain and suffering caused by a negligent or reckless individual.
The negotiation process is generally a quicker and less costly way to settle injury cases. A negotiated agreement can put money in your pocket quicker than a personal injury lawsuit. However, if the at-fault party refuses to negotiate in good faith to resolve the claim, you may need to file a lawsuit.
What You Need to Know About Negotiation in a Personal Injury Case
Before you begin negotiating a settlement for your personal injury claim, you need to know these things:
You May Receive a Reservation of Rights Letter
Do not be alarmed if the insurance company for the other party sends you a letter stating that it is investigating your insurance claim. The letter states that the company is only liable for any covered claim up to the policy terms.
Insurance companies use Reservation of Rights Letters to inform claimants that they reserve the right to deny your claim if their investigation does not find evidence of fault or liability. It is generally the first step in working to gather evidence the company uses to deny or undervalue your claim.
An insurance adjuster may contact you shortly after you receive the letter asking for information. The claims adjuster may ask you to provide a recorded statement or answer questions while being recorded. In addition, they might ask you to sign a release for medical records.
These tactics are designed to get information the company can use against you. Therefore, it is best not to talk with a claims adjuster or sign any documents without legal advice.
Settling an Accident Claim Before Completing Medical Treatment Can Hurt Your Case
An insurance company may make an initial settlement offer before completing medical treatment. If you accept the offer and sign a settlement agreement, you waive your right to file a lawsuit or make further claims.
Until you complete medical treatment, you cannot know the full cost of your medical bills and lost wages. You might sustain permanent impairment that prevents you from working and significantly affects your quality of life.
Settling your claim without this information can mean giving up thousands of dollars in damages you should receive.
Dispute Resolution and Negotiation Begins With a Settlement Offer
The insurance company may make an initial settlement offer. If not, your personal injury lawyer prepares a demand letter to send to the insurance company.
A demand letter for a car accident case or other personal injuries generally includes:
- The general facts of the case, including how the injury occurred
- A discussion of the applicable laws that create fault and liability
- The details of your injuries
- A breakdown of the damages you incurred and the value of those damages
- An amount you are willing to accept to settle your claim
The insurance company may take a few weeks to review your settlement demand. After that, it may accept or deny the demand. More likely, the insurance company makes a counteroffer.
A counteroffer is a negotiation strategy. Your attorney asks for more than you are willing to accept. The insurance company is aware of this fact, so it counters with a lower amount.
If the counteroffer is higher than the amount your attorney believes is a fair settlement, the claim is resolved. Let’s say instead that the insurance company’s offer is for an amount below the value of your claim. In that case, your attorney may continue to negotiate until the insurance company agrees to a fair amount.
If the insurance company is not reasonable, your lawyer may advise you to proceed with a personal injury lawsuit.
Factors That Affect Negotiations for a Personal Injury Claim
Numerous factors influence the negotiations in a personal injury case. Some factors can impact the value of the damages.
Statues of Limitations
The Florida statute of limitations sets deadlines for filing lawsuits. There comes a time during the negotiations when your attorney will advise you that you need to accept the settlement offer or proceed with a lawsuit.
Florida’s Comparative Fault Laws
If you are partially to blame for the cause of your injury, the value of your claim is lower. Florida’s comparative fault laws state that an injured party’s compensation is reduced by their percentage of fault for causing their injuries. Therefore, if you were 30% at fault for the cause of an accident, the court could reduce your compensation by that percentage according to the theory of contributory fault.
Available Insurance Coverage
The insurance company is only liable for damages up to the policy limits. If your damages exceed the policy limits, you need to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party to seek more money.
In some cases, a party may not have insurance to cover the cause of your injury. In that situation, you would need to file a lawsuit if the person does not agree to pay your damages.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyers
Our personal injury attorneys are skilled and successful negotiators. We aggressively negotiate settlement agreements to recover maximum compensation for your injury claim. Call our law office at (904) 396-1100 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Jacksonville, FL.