Personal injury claim

Negotiating Process in Personal Injury

When you have a personal injury claim, you might wonder what happens during the negotiating process. Many of the interactions between your California personal injury attorney and the other party take place when you are not present.

Just because you are not there, it does not mean that anything mysterious is taking place. To relieve your anxiety and demystify the experience, let’s discuss the negotiating process in personal injury. 

The Demand Letter

Usually, the ball gets rolling when your lawyer sends a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance company. In this letter, your attorney notifies the insurer that their policyholder did something negligent that harmed you. At this point in the process, the allegations might be somewhat general, with more detail getting added as needed.

The demand letter also includes a dollar amount that you want the insurance company to pay to settle your claim against their policyholder. When coming up with a dollar amount for the demand letter, your lawyer will usually ask for an amount higher than what they expect to receive in settlement, to give them some room for counter-offers in negotiations. 

The Adjuster’s Response to the Demand Letter

By this point, the insurance company will likely have assigned a claims adjuster to handle their initial investigation, liability assessment, and negotiations. When the adjuster reads the demand letter, they will tend to have any one of these four reactions:

  • Deny liability on the part of their policyholder. Sometimes, the insurance company even blames you for the accident that injured you. 
  • Respond with a lower counter-offer, usually stating justifications for that amount.
  • Agree to the terms of the demand letter and confirm that they will settle the claim at the amount stated in the demand letter. This response hardly ever happens in the first response. 
  • Ignore the letter and send no response.

If the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith, your lawyer might file a lawsuit to protect your right to go after money damages for your losses. Filing a lawsuit does not have to stop the negotiation process. In fact, most personal injury lawsuits get settled without having to go to trial.

The Discovery Process

Sometimes, the parties need to exchange more information before they can reach a settlement of the personal injury claim. This can happen with interrogatories (written questions), document production, and depositions. In a deposition, the party gets asked questions live (either in person or remotely) with both lawyers present and a court reporter who takes down everything that gets said.

Back and Forth

The plaintiff’s attorney might go back and forth with the insurance company, with each side edging closer to the middle during each round of the negotiations. The plaintiff’s lawyer might come down a little with each succeeding round of negotiations while the claims adjuster comes up a little. Often, each side offers arguments or justifications for their financial position. 

Settlement or Lawsuit

Eventually, the parties will either agree on a dollar amount and proceed to the settlement phase, or the plaintiff’s lawyer might file a lawsuit. If the parties agree on a settlement amount, the plaintiff will have to sign papers, like a settlement agreement and a waiver of claims or release of claims, before they receive the money. A California personal injury attorney can negotiate directly with the claims adjuster on your behalf. Get in touch with our office today for legal assistance, we gladly offer a free consultation.