When you are pursuing compensation for your damages in a personal injury claim, there will be a process of negotiation between yourself with your attorney and the insurance company or the attorney of the individual or company that is responsible for your injuries. This can be a trying process which takes a lot of time and patience. It will help to know what to expect during the negotiations and to be prepared for every scenario.
Start By Consulting a Personal Injury Attorney
Before negotiations begin, you’ll want to consult with your personal injury attorney to determine what your claim is worth. Together, you will establish exactly how much money will be required to compensate all of your damages. You will also decide on the lowest amount that you will be willing to accept without taking the case the court. These conversations with your attorney will get you set up to begin the negotiation process with a demand letter.
The Demand Letter
The demand letter is a document which details your injuries and expenses and requests a specific amount of compensation. This letter will be sent to the opposing counsel or insurance company. It will also include the evidence that supports your claims. Then, the other insurance adjuster or opposing counsel will respond to this request for compensation.
The Initial Response to the Demand Letter
You should expect the initial response to your demand letter to criticize your request. It will include various problems that the insurance adjuster or opposing counsel finds with your claim. They may say that your injuries are not covered by the insurance policy, that your medical treatments are unnecessary or unreasonable, that you have a pre-existing condition, or that your injuries were not as severe as you have indicated. This is all to be expected, and it does not mean that you should accept a low offer. In fact, it is rarely wise to agree to the initial offer that will come with the response to the demand letter. Their counteroffer will likely be far less than what you requested in your demand letter. Once you’ve received this response, you and your attorney will send back your own reply.
Your Reply to the Initial Response to the Demand Letter
Just as the response to your demand letter included criticisms and challenges to your claim, your reply to this response will challenge the claims made by the insurance claims adjuster or opposing counsel. You will likely be repeating yourself here, by stating again the extent of your injuries and expenses. You will express that all of your treatments were necessary and reasonable, and refer back to the documentation that was provided in the demand letter. However, you will take this opportunity to lower your demand by a slight amount.
At this time, it is wise to keep in mind that although the insurance claims adjuster and/or opposing council are counting on your desire to close the case as soon as possible, they are equally motivated to do so. For this reason, they will respond to your reply with a higher offer. Neither side wants to spend the time and money on taking the case the court. You may be tempted to accept the low offer, just to get it all done and over with; but remember that the other side also wants to get this resolved quickly. This is why both sides are motivated to negotiate until a satisfactory agreement can be reached. Once you’ve rejected their initial offer, they are very likely to increase their offer. Then, you and your attorney can decide if you wish to reply with another counter-demand, or if the offer is high enough to accept. The negotiations will continue in this fashion until an agreement is reached or until it is determined that no agreement can be reached, in which case, you will take the case to trial.
What if the Insurance Company Makes an Offer First?
Not all negotiations will follow the same routine. Sometimes, the insurance claims adjuster contacts you first with an initial settlement offer, before you send a demand letter. You may even receive an offer before you’ve had the opportunity to consult with an attorney. If you have not done so yet, this is the time to contact a personal injury attorney. You will want to consult with your attorney to determine what your claim is worth and what the lowest amount you are willing to accept should be. If the insurance company sends you an offer, first, and if it is close to what you were hoping to get, then you might respond by requesting a little bit more than their offer. This is very likely to result in a fair settlement that both sides can agree on. If the offer is far less than what your claim is worth, then you should negotiate in the same manner as you would if you had sent the initial demand letter.
Finalizing Your Settlement Agreement
To finalize a settlement agreement, once all parties have agreed to a final settlement amount, your attorney will make sure that the terms of the settlement arrangement are documented in writing. This will include the exact amount of your settlement, the date on which you will receive your settlement, and the signatures of yourself and the insurance adjuster or opposing counsel, with dates. You will both receive a copy of this agreement, which you should keep.
The most important thing to understand about personal injury claims and the negotiation process is that you can dramatically improve the outcome of your claim and the value of your settlement by working with a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney in Georgia. Contact The Law Office of John B Jackson for a free consultation and get started on the right path.