The Settlement Process Following a Personal Injury Case
Once we start the process of pressing a personal injury claim, many things will start to happen. However, before we take your case straight to the Texas courts, my practice will attempt to negotiate a settlement on your behalf. We will negotiate with the negligent party, their lawyers, and their insurance company.
This settlement can make the difference between receiving the money you deserve sooner rather than later.
Why You Should Attempt to Settle
A settlement benefits everybody involved. It also saves time and money for you and my firm.
- While settlement negotiations can sometimes last a long time, a trial can take even longer
- A trial will require you to spend a great deal of time in court, which can compromise your health and well-being after an accident
- Trials cost money. The longer it goes, the more you will have to pay the court
Settlements by contrast can happen quickly. It is not unheard of that an insurance company will outright accept your settlement offer. Imagine the whole process getting done and over with that quickly.
It will not always happen that way, but a settlement is almost always faster than a trial. And don’t think the speed in which a settlement negotiation can happen means that you will lose out on the money due to your for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering.
Before Starting the Settlement Negotiations
Before anything can happen, we will need to gather information. This is where you can help us the most. You should gather all paperwork that has anything even peripherally to do with your injury.
- Bills – not just medical, but all of your continuing expenses since the accident
- Doctor’s notes, prescriptions, diagnosis, charts and anything else related to your health
- Receipts for purchases you made because of the accident and since the accident
- The names of every person you remember at the site of the accident
- The names and contact information of people who know you well, especially if you saw them on the day of the accident
- Any notifications from your place of employment that you received after the accident
Be of as much help to us as possible. If we ask you to find a piece of documentation, a name, or anything else, make sure that you get it. Do not dawdle or waste any time.
We will need to put together everything to come up with a settlement amount. You can help us present a strong case just by handing over your collected paperwork.
Write Down Everything about the Accident
In addition, you should keep notes or a journal of all that you have gone through leading up to and since the accident. Describe the accident in as much detail as you possibly can.
Also, write about the trials you have gone through since the accident and how they made you feel. Explain how life is different because of the accident. Outline any struggles you had to endure.
This can help to prove emotional stress. While not always a factor, pain and suffering includes emotional stress. That means it can play a role in your settlement amount.
How Much You Should Ask For in a Settlement
Before the negotiations, you need a figure to ask the other party for. How much that figure should be depends on quite a few factors. The standard approach is as follows:
Medical expenses – This includes all of your medical bills from the accident. Even if your insurance paid, you should still add these expenses to your settlement amount.
Future medical expenses – If you have to continue treatment going forward, you should add the amount of these future medical visits as well. You should also consider adding more if you have a long-term or lifelong injury.
Lost earnings – If your injury caused you to miss work, then those missed wages should also go into the settlement amount.
Even if it constituted paid time off, you should add these numbers anyway. This can also include earnings lost from any side business or other money-generating endeavor you missed out on because of your injury.
Potential lost earnings – If you anticipate more time off work because of medical visits then you need to add those future wages.
Are you out of work indefinitely while you heal? Are you in a situation where you simply cannot return to your job because of the injury? Then these too should become a part of your settlement amount.
Personal property damage – If your accident also contributed to a property loss, then that also goes into the settlement amount. This can include things like a damaged car, house or even an expensive electronic device that you had on you at the time.
All of these contribute to your economic loss. There are other factors as well, such as pain and suffering. It is hard to place a price on these types of intangibles. However, when we are calculating a good settlement offer we will certainly consider these things.
Keep in mind the aforementioned documentation. Your notes can go a long way towards proving pain and suffering and increasing your settlement amount.
Be Realistic With Your Expectations
One important thing you should remember is that your settlement is not a means to make money. It is not for you to get rich off of. This is a misconception many people have regarding the settlement process.
This process is in place to compensate you for injuries, pain and suffering. That is why you often hear lawyers on television talk about “the money you deserve.” It is important to mention this because greed can upset the settlement process.
If we ask for too much, it can stutter the entire process. That is why it is important you work closely with me on figuring out the right amount to ask for. Beyond that, there are also a few limits to what you can ask for anyway.
Limits to Settlement Amounts
1. Limits due to coverage
One problem that many people never consider in personal injury cases is whether or not the negligent party has a means to even pay.
For example, if an uninsured motorist hits your vehicle, then there is no insurance company to sue for damages. You will have to seek to sue the individual instead. If that individual is just an average nine-to-five worker then the odds are you will not get anywhere near the amount you need.
Even if the other party does have insurance, there is a possibility that their insurance company only covers them up to a certain amount. The insurance company will not pay beyond that amount. In addition, that amount may also have to cover the injuries and other financial things for the insured.
Also, depending on the nature of the accident, it is possible for someone to have coverage that does not cover the specific act that caused the accident.
2. Limits due to liability
While you should never admit fault, it is possible that the insurance company will find a way to prove your partial liability in the accident. Partial liability does not mean that you do not have a case, but it does mean that you will not receive full damages.
Partial liability occurs in degrees. The more they can prove your fault, the less they are willing to pay in damages.
Understanding the limits can help you and my firm save time. We usually go about trying to gather copies of the negligent party’s insurance information. This is just to make sure that the insurance company’s coverage can deal with the amount that we ask for during your settlement negotiation.
The Negotiation Process
No matter what your desired settlement amount turns out to be, we will need room to negotiate.
That is why it is common for my firm to initially ask for a much larger sum than what we both came up with. This gives me a lot of room to negotiate down to the sum you really want, or even get you more than you asked for.
We will ask for something that is more but still within reason. After all, asking for an impossible sum can sometimes cause the insurance company to ignore it or simply tell us to take it to trial.
The adjuster for the insurance company will either accept or issue a counter offer. Before either of those things happen, the insurance company may want to launch their own full investigation. This means that you may have to consent to an interview or go see a doctor of their choosing.
The adjuster will point out things in your claim that the company feels need addressing. They may bring up liability or point out that a particular medical visit was unnecessary. You and I can address each thing they bring up.
This is also where a lot of the documentation you gathered comes into play.
This process will play out like a tennis match until there is a settlement agreement. Even if you feel in the end it is better to go to trial, the settlement match can continue to go on.
In cases like that, the insurance company will usually add a provision that we drop the case if you accept the offered settlement.
How Long the Settlement Process Takes
The settlement negotiations will take as long as they take. In some cases, they are over and done with almost immediately. In other cases, they can drag on for quite some time. As mentioned, they can even continue if you decide to go to trial.
If you have a particularly strong case, then the threat of going to trial can sometimes move an insurance company to act. However, it is important to remember that can also backfire and cause the insurance company to dig deeper into their investigation.
Patience is an important part of the process. While the possibility of a quick settlement exists, it is not the norm.
The best thing you can do to speed up the process is to make sure that you have an airtight case. The more firmly you are in the right, the less wiggle room the insurance company will have.
Many people like to blame their lawyers if a settlement takes too long. The truth is, we are doing everything we possibly can. We do not want the case to drag on forever neither. The negotiation process has a lot of downtime while you wait for a response.
Also remember that even a lengthy settlement process is typically shorter than a trial.
The Importance of Professional Help
Many people think that it is okay to pursue these types of cases on their own. While it is possible, it is not something that anybody should take into their own hands.
Here at the Michael Gonzalez Firm, we know who to talk to and when. We know how to go over an adjuster’s head. We know the right amount to ask for on your behalf. We can answer the difficult questions for you.
Each type of personal injury case will come with caveats that govern how they work differently from other types of cases.
An automobile accident and a slip at a grocery store are both good cause for a personal injury case. But both of these cases are handled in completely different ways. Here at my firm, we have these specific specialties. So we will know how to negotiate those unique avenues on your behalf.
No matter how much information you have about how personal injury settlement work, you should speak to me first. If you find yourself in any kind of accident, contact my firm about the possibility of a case immediately.