Resolving a personal injury claim may require filing a lawsuit. However, most personal injury cases are resolved through the negotiating process. Negotiation is an effective way to settle a dispute without a trial. Negotiating a settlement agreement is less costly and time-consuming than going to trial.
The negotiating process is unique to each personal injury case. However, the following steps are common in the negotiating process for most personal injury cases.
Insurance Reservation of Rights Letter
After an accident, you or your attorney may file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. The insurance company generally sends a letter to notify you that it does not accept nor deny the claim. Instead, it will investigate the claim to determine if its insured is responsible or liable for your damages.
The letter is more about protecting the insurance company’s rights and interests instead of giving you any helpful information. However, it is essential to keep in mind that anything you say to the insurance company, an insurance investigator, or claims adjuster could be used to deny or undervalue your claim. Seeking legal advice from a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer before providing statements or answering questions can protect your rights during the negotiating process.
Your personal injury lawyer and the insurance company will investigate the cause of the accident and your injury.
During the initial claims investigation, your lawyer may:
- Request copies of police reports, medical records, accident reports, etc.
- Interview witnesses
- Hire accident reconstructionists or other expert witnesses
- Discuss your injuries with your physicians
- Gather evidence from the accident scene
- Interview police officers and other emergency responders
- Search for photographs and videos of the accident
The goal of the investigation is to gather evidence proving causation, fault, and liability for your injuries. In Pennsylvania, you need to prove that the other party’s conduct caused your injuries before you can recover compensation for damages.
Completion of Medical Treatment
While your attorney investigates the cause of your injury, you should complete your medical treatment. An insurance company may make a settlement offer before you complete treatment. However, it is not in your best interest to accept the offer without talking to an attorney.
Until your doctor releases you and provides an impairment rating, you cannot estimate the value of your future damages. Disabilities and permanent impairments increase the value of damages in a personal injury claim.
Documenting and Calculating Damages
The damages in a personal injury case may include economic damages, such as medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. You may also be entitled to future economic losses, including diminished earning capacity and long-term care.
However, you are also entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. Non-economic damages include physical pain, mental anguish, diminished quality of life, emotional distress, and permanent impairments.
Careful documentation of damages is essential. You need to prove that you sustained financial losses, pain, and suffering to recover money for a claim. Your lawyer will work with you and your physicians to document damages.
Your lawyer will calculate the value of your damages. Then, depending on the circumstances, the attorney might consult with economists, medical experts, and other experts to determine the amount of future damages.
Preparation of a Settlement Demand Letter
Your personal injury lawyer and the claims adjuster may have one or more conversations regarding a settlement offer. Typically, your lawyer prepares and sends a settlement demand letter to the insurance company when you complete medical treatment.
The demand letter includes information such as:
- General information about the accident, including the date, time, location, and circumstances leading to your injury
- A discussion of your injuries, including the extent and severity of permanent impairments
- A description of your damages, including calculations for financial losses
- A discussion of the legal grounds for holding the other party liable for your damages
- A demand for settlement, generally a specific dollar amount
The insurance company may accept the settlement demand, especially if the damages exceed the policy limits. On the other hand, the insurance company may issue a counter-offer. If so, your attorney and claims adjuster may go back and forth for several weeks negotiating an amount to settle your case.
Factors that impact settlement negotiations include, but are not limited to:
- The severity of your injuries
- The Pennsylvania statute of limitations
- Allegations of comparative fault
- The insurance policy limits
- Whether more than one party may be liable for your damages
- The parties involved in the case
Settlement negotiations can be complex. There could be numerous issues to settle. Claims adjusters protect the insurance company, so they usually try to negotiate a lower settlement amount.
Unfortunately, insurance companies may take advantage of injured persons who do not fully understand the process, the law, or damages. As a result, it is easy to become overwhelmed.
If you are unsure how much your injury claim is worth, seek legal advice. Also, if an insurance adjuster pressures you to accept a claim or threatens you with non-payment if you do not agree to the first settlement offer, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer. You have the right to seek legal advice before you sign any documents or agree to a personal injury settlement.
Contact a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyer For Help Negotiating a Personal Injury Claim
Dealing with an insurance company after an accident can be daunting. You don’t have to negotiate with insurance adjusters alone.
Contact an experienced injury attorney in Harrisburg for help. A lawyer will help in the negotiating process and get you the money you deserve after an injury or accident.