This article is from Marissa Turner, a freelance writer with a passion for politics and antique toys.
Ninety percent of civil cases never go to trial, reports the Department of Justice, and about 95 percent of personal injury suits settle before trial as well, according to the Law Dictionary’s analysis of government statistics. This means your compensation in an injury suit will usually depend on how well you negotiate. Consult a good attorney and understand the negotiation process.
Identify All Defendants
Lawyers with the personal injury firm Collins & Collins suggest on their website that you start by identifying all possible defendants responsible for your injury, as well as all sources of monetary recovery. A defendant can be an individual, corporation, government entity or other party or parties. The recovery source is usually the defendant’s insurance provider, unless the party is uninsured.
Notify Their Representatives
The next step is to notify the defendant’s representative, normally their insurance provider, who will conduct an investigation. Meanwhile, your attorney will conduct his own parallel investigation.
The insurance company opens a claim and assigns the investigation to an adjuster. The adjuster will first ascertain what is being claimed by reading the report. They will usually follow up by contacting you to hear what you have to say. They will then request official records, such as police and accident reports.
If you follow up by filing a claim, the adjuster may conduct a more thorough investigation. This typically begins with a generic letter requesting further documentation, such as medical records. The adjuster may investigate your background as well. AllLaw.com recommends that if the investigation reaches this stage, you should consult your attorney before authorizing the release of medical records or allowing the adjuster to take a recorded statement, as this may not be in your best interests.
State Your Claim
Your attorney’s investigation and the insurance company’s investigation will give both parties an idea of the value of your case. You can then file your claim in the form of a letter demanding payment. A demand letter includes a description of the accident, liability, injuries, medical treatments, financial loss from medical bills and lost work. It concludes with a settlement demand. Options such as structured settlements may be broached at this point. Supporting documentation should be included.
In serious injury cases, sending of a demand letter may be delayed until medical improvement has progressed. Normally you should have an attorney help you craft your demand letter, but if you want to get an idea what one looks like or if you’re pursuing a claim on your own in small claims court, the California Courts website provides a template.
Sending the demand letter initiates the negotiation phase of the settlement. Personal injury attorney Jimmy Fasiq suggests on the Barrett, Fasig & Brooks blog that you invite the defendant to make an offer before asking for a specific dollar amount. The defendant will dispute items and offer lower counter-offers until both parties reach an agreement, which may take several rounds.