Settlement can be the fastest, easiest and most fair option for an injured party because of all of the time it takes for investigation, prelitigation and trial. In fact, it is because of this that 95 percent of cases are settled before trial. But beware: insurers are not obligated to make any settlement offers Injury Claim. This can make the process time-consuming and costly without the help of an experienced negotiator and attorney.
To get the possible result, immediately seek an attorney to guide you through your case. Avoid the common mistake of getting expert advice too late and losing value or a strategic advantage. At the Pusch & Nguyen Law Firm, our team can help you get the justice and answers you need.
Who can start the settlement process?
Traditionally, the settlement process starts when an injured party’s attorney sends a settlement demand letter. This custom has changed a bit in recent years. After an insurance claim is filed, an insurance claims representative has a duty to make all reasonable attempts to settle the case within the policy limits.
Still, a demand letter is often still the fastest and most efficient way to begin the settlement process. Insurance claims representatives rarely make the first settlement offer, and typically expect the injured party’s attorney to make the first demand to kick-off negotiations.
A demand is an estimate of the amount of money it will take to resolve a claim, such as an insurer’s policy limits. The demand letter containing the injured party’s demand should also lay out important background facts, the laws that apply to the case, as well as documents to support the injured party’s claims. Documents that support an injured party’s claim can include:
- Police reports,
- Medical bills and reports
- Photos and video of injuries
- Supporting witness statements
- Lost wage statements from the injured person’s employer
- Vehicle repair estimates
Making a demand without supporting documentation can be a waste of time. Meaningful settlement discussions typically begin after both sides have had an opportunity to review reports, policies and records for injuries and damages suffered.
The attorney can also use the demand letter as an opportunity to give the insurance company or defendant a deadline for them to respond, running anywhere from 1 to 30 days. This is important because, in some instances, an insurance company may be on the hook for more than the policy limits if an insurance company fails to respond to a demand on time, especially if it shows the insurance company acted in bad faith. Where liability is clear, an insurance company that does not try to settle quickly, fairly and act in good faith may be found to be acting in bad faith under Texas law.
Once both sides reach an agreement, all of the parties sign a written settlement agreement, which is a binding contract. Settlement agreements are enforced just like any other contract and must contain clear terms and the agreements are usually confidential. If any party violates the terms of a settlement agreement, the violation can form the basis of breach of contract lawsuit.
What is a settlement? for Injury Claim
A case settlement is when the insurance company or defendant offers payment to an injured person and they mutually agree to resolve a claim. There is no single method of measuring or calculating the amount of money an injured person can demand or recover in a settlement. Generally, the settlement can include:
- Medical bills
- Property damage and repair estimates
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Future lost wages
- Future medical expenses
Any settlement offer should take into account both pain and suffering that happened in the past as well as any projected future pain and suffering, including ongoing medical treatment, or prolonged chronic pain that resulted from the accident. Each type of damages is distinct, and one injury can warrant recovery of several types of damages.
When can a lawsuit settle?
Settlement may happen at any stage of the case litigation. Even if it seems like negotiations have stopped, there are several key times when it is possible for an attorney to be in a good position to continue or reopen settlement negotiations. Attorneys must be alert and prepared for the opportunity to discuss settlement.
As mentioned above, the first opportunity arises after the demand letter is sent. Once received, settlement negotiations can begin with an insurance claims representative before escalating to the insurer’s attorney. Either may be authorized by the insurance company to enter into a settlement agreement.
If initial negotiations after the demand letter are unsuccessful, your lawyer can file a lawsuit. At this point, the insurance company is alerted to the credible threat posed by a lawsuit, and the parties can reopen settlement negotiations. The judge can also order the parties to participate in a settlement conference or mediation. During a settlement conference or mediation, the parties come together, present their cases and evidence, and may reach a settlement agreement to end the lawsuit. These are just a couple of the instances where negotiation is possible –all before a trial begins.
Even after jury trial begins, cases can settle at trial that could not be settled beforehand. This often happens because something unexpected happens at trial. For example, an important witness may give a bad or unconvincing testimony, or the judge makes unanticipated rulings that exclude important evidence. Most trial judges will also do their part to support settling the case.
Cases can even settle while the jury is still deliberating. If the jury is taking a long time to reach a verdict, the insurance company’s defense attorney can decide to offer a settlement because experienced attorneys know that the longer the jury is out, the more likely it is that injured party will obtain a favorable verdict.
Even if the injured party is unsuccessful, appeal is an option. Sometimes the unsuccessful party will appeal, or threaten to appeal, the case and bring it before a higher-level court to try to get a better result than they got with the trial court. Many appellate courts now have settlement conference procedures while the appeal process is pending, and can require additional settlement conferences before the appealed case goes to trial. At this point, the insurance company or defendant may negotiate a settlement rather than restart the litigation, or because they are afraid they will lose on appeal.
Timing is everything, and another important deadline to keep in mind is the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is essentially a deadline created by the law. If a lawsuit is not filed before the deadline, then the injured party loses his or her right to sue after that time period passes. In Texas, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is 2 years. For example, if an injured person is hurt in a car accident and a lawsuit is not filed within 2 years from the date of the accident, then the injured party loses his or her right to sue.
During settlement negotiations, injured parties and their attorneys must continue to be aware of the statute of limitations. This is because ongoing settlement negotiations do not stop the clock or passage of time under the statute of limitations unless the insurance company or defendant waives this defense, or there is evidence of fraud or bad faith.
Why settle a lawsuit?
Handled correctly, settlement can be an injured party’s best option. Some feel that it is a sign of weakness to be the first to suggest settlement, but this is unrealistic. In certain cases, it is preferable to compromise rather than go through the time-consuming, costly and potentially stressful process of trial. Contested cases can take months, if not years, to get to trial. After, if either side appeals, it can be another 2 or 3 years before the entire case is resolved. At trial, even in cases where liability is clear, there is always some risk of a verdict that is lower amount of money than what the claim could have settled for. Early effective settlement negotiations can also cut back on the legal fees and court costs involved with taking a case to trial.
How to Negotiate a Settlement
Effective negotiation is in the injured party’s interest because it opens the door for answers to questions that help predict any issues that may come up later and potentially waste time or weaken a case. Negotiations with the claims representative can be clear cut and straightforward, or complex and time consuming. Experienced negotiators tailor their approach to each case’s circumstances, while avoiding common negotiating mistakes.
Attorneys must be prepared and use basic techniques to obtain the best possible result for the injured client, such as:
- Organizing a blueprint for negotiations and knowing what to argue in sequence while maintaining flexibility to change;
- Relying on similar past cases that had favorable results to show the law will likely also be on your side;
- Analyzing and evaluating the speaker’s statements as well as studying the speaker’s inflections and facial expressions;
- Silently reviewing what the speaker has said and anticipating what the speaker will say next;
- Communicating effectively by choosing the right words and using positive body language;
- Building professional relationships and acting courteously to encourage successful and open discussions;
- Using demonstrations and charts as props to clearly paint a picture of the accident or the injuries suffered; and
- Maintaining a willingness to compromise.
In the heat of any disagreement, it can be easy to forget the goal of negotiation is to reach an agreement that both sides approve. If you are willing to negotiate, it means you have to be willing to compromise in order to achieve settlement.
Another way to think about getting a valuable settlement offer from an insurance company is as a sales pitch. Any unreasonable demand in the presentation or content of the sales pitch will meet resistance, if not a complete rejection just like a buyer would an unreasonable sales offer. It is important to remember that while lawsuits are an injured party’s attempt to get justice and remedy for their injuries, cases are business matters for insurance companies. The goal is to reach a mutual agreement. If settlement negotiations break down, never close the door to potential future negotiations.
Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for Injury Claim
Navigating complex personal injury cases and handling insurance companies can make the recovery process even more difficult. Experienced attorneys strategically weigh the cost and benefits of each case to minimize the time and expense involved while maximizing their clients’ compensation.
Are you trying to secure your financial recovery with the help of experienced attorneys? If so, we can help.
The Pusch & Nguyen Law Firm has helped countless Texans handle their insurance disputes. Our experienced trial lawyers have gone up against some of the biggest names in the insurance industry while successfully bringing home payouts for clients. Our successful reputation speaks for itself, and with offices in both Houston and San Antonio, we are well equipped to assist Texans who are in dire need of our services. Register online for a free case evaluation or call us today at 713-524-8139 (Houston) or 210-702-3000 to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.