If you’re pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, like a car accident claim or a slip-and-fall liability case, you’ve probably heard your St. Louis personal injury lawyer talking about negotiating a settlement for you. Your settlement should cover current and future medical care, lost wages from time missed at work and compromised future earning capability, and property damage sustained in the accident.
But how exactly do lawyers negotiate settlements? Let’s dive in.
The settlement negotiation process
Most lawsuits start with a demand letter drafted by the victim’s lawyer (the plaintiff) and sent to the at-fault party (the defendant) and their insurance company. The demand letter lays out the facts of the case, the defendant’s liability, the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, and a dollar amount for full and fair compensation for their losses.
On receipt of the demand letter, the defendant’s lawyer may:
- Agree to the proposed terms. If the defendant is clearly in the wrong and the settlement is smaller, the insurance company may pay right away, saving itself further legal expenses
- Agree to liability but offer a lower settlement
- Deny liability and the proposed settlement
If the first happens, then your case is essentially over. You’ll simply sign the settlement agreement and collect your award.
If the other party contests anything, your lawyer will file a suit (if they haven’t already), and settlement negotiations begin.
How lawyers negotiate settlements
Personal injury lawyers are experienced negotiators representing their client’s best interests. Each attorney may have their approach to negotiations, but all have the same goal: to get the highest possible settlement for their client.
The stronger the facts are in your favor, or the more evidence your lawyer has to build a case against the other party, the better position they are in to negotiate. Often, the negotiation strategy your lawyer uses depends on the circumstances of your case.
When do settlement negotiations occur?
Settlement negotiations can happen at any point in the lawsuit process, from the time the suit is filed to the time the trial starts. Either party can initiate formal settlement negotiations in mediation. Mediation involves a trained mediator who directs the negotiations and acts as a liaison between the two parties.
What issues are negotiated?
Each component of your proposed compensation may be up for negotiation. For example, the insurance company may agree to fully pay your medical bills but debate the dollar amount your lawyer proposes for anticipated future medical care.
Lost wages are another commonly contested settlement element. The actual wages you didn’t earn because you missed work to heal from your injuries can easily be calculated. But if your injuries preclude you from working in the job you had before the accident, your future earning potential may be compromised. Your lawyer asks for the difference between what you would have earned and what you can now earn until retirement had you not been injured.
How do negotiations end?
Most of the negotiations are about arriving at a dollar amount for each area of compensation. Once your lawyer and insurance company agree on an amount for each, you review the proposed settlement. It’s always the plaintiff’s decision to accept the settlement or take a chance at trial for a higher amount.
When you agree on the settlement, it’s signed and entered into the court as a formal agreement that legally binds all parties involved.
Do you need help with how to negotiate insurance settlement?
If you’ve been offered a settlement by the other party in your case and aren’t sure if it’s a good offer, it’s not too late to speak with a St. Louis personal injury attorney. A recent survey noted that 91% of people who hired a lawyer for a personal injury claim received a settlement. By comparison, only 51% of those who did not hire a lawyer.
Contact Langdon & Emison today at (866) 931-2115 for a free case consultation.
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