If you were injured in a car, slip and fall, or another type of personal injury accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Depending on the circumstances, these losses may be extensive. These may include medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and more.
However, insurance companies are inherently at odds with claimants. Insurance companies want to minimize the payout of claims while you want to maximize the compensation you receive. Your ability to recover fair compensation is directly tied to your ability to negotiate for it.
Personal Injury Process
The typical personal injury claim follows this process, culminating in negotiation:
The first step after you make a claim is for the insurance company to investigate the claim. This may consist of reviewing the following:
- Accident report
- Statements from the parties
- Witness statements
- Photos or videos of the accident
- Medical records
The insurance company may also review policy documents to determine if coverage applies to the accident.
Insurance Company Response
California’s Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations sets out responsibilities of insurance companies in handling claims. This includes the responsibilities to:
- Maintain files and record documentation related to claims
- Provide notice of a claim and provide a response to communications within 15 days
- Provide accurate information to claimants about their insurance benefits
- Accept or deny a claim within 40 days
Other steps may also take place simultaneously.
Calculation Of Damages
While the insurance company is conducting its investigation, you can begin building your claim. You can begin compiling documentation that shows the extent of the losses you suffered because of the accident. This may include:
- Costs to repair or replace your personal property
- Costs for alternative transportation while your vehicle is being repaired, if applicable
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
It is important to consider the future and long-term impacts of the accidents and injuries when determining the value of the claim. For example, you can recover compensation for future lost income and medical expenses.
It is also important to understand how different factors can affect the value of a claim, such as:
- Severity of injuries – The more severe injuries are, the higher potential value of the claim.
- The impact of the injuries – Different injuries may affect a person differently. The greater the negative impact on your life, the higher the claim’s value.
- Whether you suffered a permanent disability – If you were left permanently disabled, the claim may be more valuable because it needs to account for your long-term loss of income and ongoing suffering.
A personal injury lawyer may sometimes hire expert witnesses to help determine the value of your losses. For example, an economic expert or vocational expert may be able to estimate the long-term effect of the injuries on your earning ability.
Once your lawyer has a better sense of the value of your claim, they can send a demand letter to the insurance company that requests the payment of a certain amount of compensation.
After your lawyer sends a demand letter to the insurance company, the insurance company will respond. Typically, the insurance company will not agree to the first demand for payment. It may offer a lower amount. Your lawyer and the insurance company may go through several rounds of negotiations.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind during the negotiation process:
Understand The Alternatives
While you are certainly interested in receiving top-dollar for your claim, you should also understand the alternatives if you cannot settle with the insurer. Traditionally, this may involve filing a lawsuit against the negligent party.
Litigation is expensive and may involve the following costs:
- Filing fees
- Discovery costs
- Expert witness fees
- Out-of-pocket expenses
It is important that you consider these costs and weigh them against the insurance company’s offers to determine whether it is financially worth moving forward with your case.
While you are certainly anxious to receive settlement funds to pay off medical expenses and catch up on bills that piled up while you are off work, patience is key when negotiating for a fair settlement. Often, the first offer is not the best or highest offer. It is typically worth the time to develop your claim to fight for fair compensation.
In some cases, it may be strategic to reject the insurance company’s offer and file a lawsuit instead. This shows the insurance company you are willing to take your claim to court if necessary and may be an incentive for the insurance company to settle the claim.
Realize The Weaknesses Of Your Case
Finally, it can help to keep a realistic perspective on the potential value of your claim. Your claim may not be as worth as much as you think. Consider the following:
- Insurance policy limits – The insurance company will not settle a claim for more than the coverage made available through the applicable insurance policy.
- How you appear as a witness – The insurance company can consider how you might appear to a judge or jury. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, a criminal history, or a history of making various insurance claims, these factors could potentially reduce the value of your claim if they are believed to affect your credibility.
- Your own negligence – California law considers your degree of fault when determining the value of your claim.
However, an experienced personal injury attorney can help to ensure you receive maximum compensation for your claim, regardless of the facts and circumstances involved.
Contact a Vista Personal Injury Lawyer for Help Negotiating Your Claim
While you are not required to hire a lawyer to handle the negotiation process, many people choose to do so. Personal injury lawyers routinely handle and negotiate personal injury claims, so they often have a better idea of the value of the claim and the potential long-term impacts of the injuries. Contact a Petrov Law Firm personal injury lawyer at (619) 344-0360 for help and a free case review to assess your claim.