It is one thing to take responsibility for your own actions going wrong, but enduring anguish because of someone else’s recklessness is another ball game altogether.
If you have been injured as a result of another person’s negligence, you have the legal right to receive compensation for your pain and losses. As a victim, you may want to consider whether or not to settle your case before going to trial and/or filing a lawsuit.
You can resolve your claim through a voluntary settlement agreement, which will spare you the time and cost of undergoing a court trial. However, deciding on a fair value to settle your injury claim can be a tricky affair because this is dependent on several factors.
The Negotiation Process
The process of negotiation is premeditated and advances slowly towards a mutually-acceptable solution. Surviving it requires planning, patience and perseverance. Having some time fly between offers and counteroffers can be advantageous as you can use the window period to size up your progress and chart out your next step(s).
Whether it is signing the settlement-related documents or cashing the check received from the insurance company, do not take any aspect of the negotiation process for granted. But, even if you do slip up, you should be able to rectify the situation with minimal damage to your claim.
However, be prepared to face some questioning from the insurance company’s claim adjuster. Simply saying that you “misspoke” could be enough to bring your settlement negotiations back on track.
Because the process can be extremely slow in nature, you will need to hold your horses and be as patient as you can. Even though you may require the money as soon as possible, refrain from giving the impression of wanting to hasten the negotiations.
Negotiating Your Claim
First things first – before beginning the personal injury claim settlement process, you should get the required medical assistance. Your doctor will determine the type and the degree of your injury, and administer the necessary treatment. Having all this information handy will enable you to figure out the amount you should demand to settle your case.
Once your doctor has determined the nature, severity and duration of your injuries, you and/or your attorney can set the recovery process in motion.
Mentioned ahead are the steps you will need to follow.
1. Notifying the Responsible Party
The personal injury claim process can begin only after you have notified the insurance company of the party responsible for your losses. For this, you will need to send them a notification letter, which will inform them of the injuries and other damages suffered by you due to the negligence of their insured. The notification letter will also inform them that you will be seeking a fitting compensation for those damages.
Upon receiving your notification, the insurance company will send you a form letter called the Reservation of Rights Letter. This letter is meant to indicate that they are in the process of reviewing your claim, which will also be discussed with you. However, this does not mean that they’re conceding to any liability on behalf of their insured.
Once you’re done with receiving all the medical attention you need, you should dispatch your demand letter to the insurance adjuster .The purpose of this letter is to inform the insurance company of the basic facts of your claim and damages such as medical bills, lost wages and related costs. These are known as “special damages.”
For minor injury claims, you can multiply the total medical bills by a number between two and five. The resultant amount indicates the damages related to your pain and suffering, also known as “general damages.” The combination of special and general damages should make your total settlement demand.
2. Beginning the Negotiations
The ball will now be in the adjuster’s court, and he will soon respond to your demand. More often than not, the adjuster replies by saying that your claim carries little or no weightage. He may use jargon and statistics to convince you that he has expertise in this matter. In other words, the adjuster will refute your demand amount.
He will then proceed to make a counteroffer, or try to insinuate that your demand exceeds his authority by saying that your special damages are too high for the type of injuries sustained. He can also state that if you don’t accept the counteroffer immediately, he will probably not be in a position to make it again.
It is suggested that you do not panic at the response. Know that the adjuster is only trying to gauge your understanding of the settlement process, your level of patience, and how far you’re willing to take the process (including filing a lawsuit). Do not get intimidated by his tactics or give in to a low counteroffer.
3. Responding to the Adjuster
Your next step should be letting the adjuster know that you’re not backing down just yet. Respond calmly by thanking him for the counteroffer and communicate that you don’t accept it.
Mention that the injuries sustained by you were real and the necessary treatment was prescribed by the doctor. In the negotiation process, you can let him know that based on his points, you may be willing to reduce your demand, although not drastically. Inform him that you will respond to his counteroffer after reviewing it thoroughly.
4. The Bartering Process
Upon receiving your revised demand, the adjuster may not respond immediately. That’s probably because he might be waiting for you to lose patience and call him. Refrain from doing so as you may end up giving the adjuster the upper hand.
Let the process take its course with offers and counteroffers between him and you. Both of you can continue to put your points forward until you ultimately arrive at a mutually-agreeable figure and settle the claim.
Of course, if you cannot settle the claim in keeping with the lowest acceptable amount or the “drop dead” figure, you can go ahead and file a lawsuit. Do not make the mistake of disclosing this amount to the adjuster. If you fight your case well, you may land yourself an amount that is much higher than your drop dead figure.
5. The Final Steps
While it is best for both the parties to settle the claim, there is also the possibility of a deadlock. In such a case, you will need to be prepared for litigation.
You can file a lawsuit in the small claims court if your claim is minor (Do confirm the jurisdiction limits regarding the monetary cap, which varies from state to state). For bigger claims, you can engage an experienced personal injury attorney and file a suit in a higher court.
Negotiating a personal injury claim can be a tough procedure. Patience and diligence will see you through it. The insurance adjuster will be relatively more experienced in handling such claims tactfully. But, you need to be prepared with the necessary evidence and be sharp in your responses as well. There are no fixed rules for negotiating, but the above steps should help you figure out where you stand in the long process, should you feel lost.
Author Bio: Rachel Oliver is a thought leader in laws dealing with personal injury and related niches. Updated with the latest happenings in the legal world, she shares her experiences and anecdotes through her write-ups on various websites. She also writes for experienced personal injury attorneys. Interact with her through her Google+ profile.