If you’re injured in a motorcycle accident or a car accident, or perhaps your loved one is, you might file a personal injury lawsuit.
What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury case is a legal dispute that stems from someone being harmed due to an injury or accident, with another person potentially being legally responsible for the harm.
The responsible person’s insurance company pays money to the injured person to cover things like medical bills and pain and suffering.
A personal injury case can be formalized when your personal injury lawyer represents you in civil court.
There are two distinctions to make here.
First, a formal personal injury lawsuit starts when a private person files a civil complaint against another person or party. The person filing the civil complaint is a plaintiff. The other party is the defendant. In filing the suit, the injured person is making the allegation that the defendant acted irresponsibly or carelessly and in doing so, they caused harm. That is what is known as filing a lawsuit.
Most accident or injury disputes are settled through an informal settlement, however.
The insurers and attorneys reach the settlement for both sides.
A settlement can be reached through negotiation, and then there’s a written agreement where both sides agree not to pursue any further action. The matter is solved by paying a mutually acceptable amount of money.
The following are some of the key things to know about settlement negotiations and the process.
What is a Settlement?
When you settle a claim, you are accepting a certain amount of money. In accepting that money, you are giving up your right to pursue any other compensation. The at-fault person doesn’t admit to doing anything wrong. They’re just giving you money to get rid of your claim.
There are two types of settlements that are most common.
The first is a lump-sum settlement.
In this situation, you receive a single payment after you agree with the insurance company.
The second is a structured settlement.
With a structured settlement, you get scheduled payments over time.
Regardless of your type of settlement, once you finalize it, you can’t go back and restart the claim or demand more compensation.
The idea of negotiating a personal injury settlement is similar to negotiating anything else.
The insurance adjuster and you will have a rough idea of how much your damages are worth. You know what you’ll take for the damages, and the adjuster knows what the insurance company is willing to pay.
Neither side knows what the other is thinking, however.
The process may start with your lawyer demanding a certain amount in a letter.
Then an adjuster will come back and tell you the problems they have with your claim. For example, they might question who was atfault.
Your lawyer responds to that, and the adjuster makes a low counteroffer.
Your lawyer might give a little and then send another demand letter.
Eventually, this goes back and forth until you agree on something.
The primary factors that determine how negotiations go will include how well your lawyer has prepared the stages of your claim, what you’re willing to settle for, and whether you’re in a hurry to settle.
Negotiations will usually begin pretty shortly after an adjuster receives your demand letter. You might expect your lawyer to hear from the adjuster within a week or two after getting your demand.
What Factors Are Relevant in Negotiations?
During negotiations, an adjuster can ask questions and also dispute certain facts to limit how much compensation you receive.
For example, the adjuster may question whether the insurance policy being discussed even covers the accident.
Liability is a big factor. Liability means who’s at-fault for the accident and what your share in that might be.
The extent of your injuries is important, as are the nature and extent of the treatment you receive.
Reservation of Rights Letter
One of the first things you might get from an insurance company is a reservation of rights letter.
This letter lets you know the company is investigating your claim but is reserving the right not to pay if the accident ends up not being covered by the policy.
A reservation of rights letter is a form of protection for the insurance company, so you can’t later say they began negotiations. By beginning negotiations, the insurance company is saying the policy does cover the accident.
How Long Does it Take to Settle a Claim?
It can take anywhere from two months to a year on average to settle a personal injury claim. However, many people wait for more than a year.
A faster resolution doesn’t mean your outcome is better. It might mean that you’re rushing and accepting less than you could get otherwise.
What Does an Insurance Adjuster Do?
As has been touched on several times, your personal injury lawyer will be working with an insurance adjuster.
An insurance adjuster is someone who works for the insurance company and processes and evaluates claims.
Their entire goal is to reduce the company's expenses, not to give out fair or fast payments.
The claims adjuster will be looking for weaknesses or issues in your claim.
They may also try to get victims to accept low offers or to make mistakes.
For example, an insurance adjuster may try to discourage you from working with a lawyer. However, you should always work with a lawyer. A lawyer understands how the process works, they are skilled in negotiation and can prevent you from being taken advantage of.
Finally, the amount you might get in a settlement can depend on many factors. These factors might include how much insurance coverage applies to your claim, the severity of your injuries, and whether or not you can return to work. Other factors include how much future medical treatment you may need and your pain and suffering.