Negotiating a settlement in a personal injury case is more complex than just throwing out numbers. Writing an article like this can be tricky. It is not intended to be a road map on how to represent yourself in a personal injury. Rather, it is quite the opposite. The best settlements come in cases where the insurance company is threatened with a costly judgment and even possible retribution from their own insured. The only way to demonstrate these downfalls to the other side is to have solid and experienced legal representation.
Hiring the best personal injury attorney shows that you are ready and able to take your case all the way to the courthouse if necessary. Now the adjuster has no choice but to take your claim seriously. Sooner or later, the adjuster may be held to answer to someone if your claim is not settled.
Where To Start?
This is the “million-dollar question.” Not every personal injury case is worth a million dollars. You have to be realistic about what your personal injury case is worth. There is no easy formula that calculates your case’s value. Rather, it is based on a combination of factors. Some of these factors are directly related to your specific case such as your medical bills, lost wages, and the seriousness of your injury.
At the same time, there are indirect factors such as your age, sex, employment, and even the jurisdiction of your case. That’s right! Where your case is pending could have a drastic affect on what your case is worth. A case in one county may be worth more than a case in another. For instance, a personal injury case in Dallasmay be worth more than a personal injury case in Fort Worth, Denton, or Plano. Why? It’s because of the pool of potential jurors who might sit on the trial.
So, where do you start in the negotiating process? The more important question is “Where do I want to end up?” Ask yourself, “After paying my medical expenses and attorneys fees, what amount can I realistically net in my pocket and is that amount satisfactory.”
Don’t Start Too Low.
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they choose to represent themselves rather than hiring an attorney. If you start too low, you may not be getting the full value of your case. You could be leaving a lot of money on the bargaining table. And the only one who benefits from that mistake is the insurance company. Then, when you realize you started too low, you try to go higher and completely halt any further negotiations.
You may also “paint yourself into a corner.” Naturally, the adjuster thinks you don’t know what you are doing. They will then attempt to bargain your case down even further in order to take advantage of your ignorance and inexperience. Why shouldn’t they! Wouldn’t you do the same thing if the tables were turned?
Don’t Start Too High.
If you start too high, the adjuster sees that you are unrealistic about your case’s value and becomes disinterested in negotiating. The adjuster will probably just give you a meaningless “low-ball” offer. You then become angered and resentful. Now, too much emotion has entered the process, making settlement less likely.
Watch What you Say.
What I have discovered is that insurance adjusters tend to have selective memory. They like to remember what benefits them and their claim. If you say something about the value of your case, the adjuster will remember it and may even misunderstand what you said. This can become a real problem and even throw cold water on any future negotiations.