Should I begin settlement negotiations?
While starting settlement negotiations can often save an injured claimant time, money and the stress of a trial, it is not always the best choice for every case. Whether settlement negotiation is right for you depends on the unique facts of your case. Sometimes, an insurance company is just using settlement negotiations to cause delay and save the insurance company money.
Insurance companies delay payment of your claim as a tactic to make money. Unlike other businesses, insurance companies make money by collecting insurance premiums, and investing the money. By delaying payment claims payment for even a few months, the insurance companies save millions of dollars. No matter how much merit your claim has, insurance companies have no reason or motivation to pay insurance claims as soon as possible. They also know they have power of the purse, and use this to their advantage.
Another reason to question entering into settlement negotiations is the fact it still costs money. Even though settlement negotiation often saves the client money, it is not always cheap when it involves hiring a mediator. A mediator is a third party hired to make decisions about settlement negotiations, and identify any meaningful weaknesses in a case. Each mediator’s background, experience and cost can vary and be extremely different from others.
What happens after settlement negotiations begin?
Even after settlement negotiations have progressed, sometimes the claim remains in dispute. This often happens when the insurance company is unwilling to meet the injured claimant’s expectations when it comes to the settlement amount. When this happens, the injured claimant’s personal injury lawyer has many options at his or her disposal. One of these options is filing a lawsuit, going into mediation or seeing if a judge orders the parties to participate in a settlement conference.
Whatever method is used to make progress, settlement can happen at any time. Sometimes, everyone is ready to go to trial and a settlement offer is made right before they go to court.
Experienced attorneys know how to get results.
Personal injury lawyers have different negotiation styles and bring their own experience to the table, but there are some negotiations tips that can help anyone understand how to negotiate settlements.
- Prepared and Armed with the Details:
From the initial demand package to the mediation brief, one key skill is to be prepared and on time. This means that the settlement negotiator is familiar with all of the facts, laws and potential problems or issues of a particular case. The attorney negotiating a case must know the details about the car accident or truck accident, how the injured claimant’s job or education was affected such as whether they lost money, the full extent of the claimant’s injuries and all of the medical records.
Failing to recognize the importance of a fact can make a big difference. For example, if there is a gap in medical treatment, the attorney needs to be prepared to explain this when asked. The insurance company may try to manipulate a gap in treatment to mean that the injured claimant was not badly hurt, if he or she was hurt at all.
Attorneys also should be prepared to answer any questions about the insurance claim. Often, mediators and judges will ask questions to see if the attorney not only fully recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of a case, but to understand the case through the eyes and experience of the attorney. This gives attorneys a chance to persuade the mediator to side with them. Paying attention to the kinds of question asked can also show you what they are thinking, concerned about and their own opinions about the case.
Being prepared also means understanding what the client wants, and their bottom line. The last thing the injured claimant and attorney wants is to be on completely different pages about what is and is not possible, then not be in agreement with each other. A divided house cannot stand. Not every single case is going to be worth multi-million-dollar settlements.
How much a settlement is worth depends on the unique facts of each case. It is the job of the attorney to recognize the value of a case, and clearly communicate the information to the client. Attorneys cannot accept settlement offers without relaying the information to the client.
- Stay on focused on the topic:
Long and wordy speeches usually may not have a place in settlement conferences and during negotiations. While picking the right words is always a smart choice, Mediators want the attorneys to get to the point. Address the main points and issues, rather than trying to cast a wide net and discuss everything you want the mediator to know.
If liability is not clear, focus on the type of injury and how bad the claimant was injured. Include how it could look bad for the defendant if the case went all the way to court before a jury. Similarly, if the extent of how bad the injuries were is clear and obvious, then focus on how the wrongdoing party is clearly responsible. By staying focused on the part that is important, the attorney can try to steer the discussion in the right direction.
- Present the Right Image and Observe Everything:
Many people communicate with body language and shape their understanding by impressions. This should be used to show what is really going on in a particular case.
For example, the insurance company often has a lot of resources such the time, money, staff and other employees to defend their interests against an injured claimant who often does not have the same resources. It is a David versus Goliath type situation. The injured claimant is often struggling to recover from an accident while balancing work, raising a family and more. In this situation, the attorney may choose to go into a settlement conference alone rather than with a large group of attorneys and staff to show that they are representing the underdogs in this situation.
Other times, it is more strategic to bring in another lawyer to sit on your team. One person will often do the oral arguments and speaking, while the other one observes, takes notes and listens to everything going on. The silent attorney can then help inform the speaking lawyer about his or her observations. This also avoids the problem of one attorney saying something that may contradict what the other is saying.
Presenting the right image also means being assertive, and not too emotional or aggressive. There is a time and place for everything. But often, there is a clear difference between a confident negotiator and presenter and one that is a bully. It can have the reverse effect than what the aggressive speaker intended. Injured claimants and attorneys must both recognize settlement negotiations, conferences and mediation are just another phase as part of a process. Rushing or pushing through the process can undo all of the hard work it took to get to that point, and there will be plenty of chances to move forward if the parties are want.
- Do not share too much
Settlement negotiations are often confidential. This means that those who are a part of settlement negotiations legally cannot tell others about what goes on during the settlement negotiations, or the details.
For example, an employee suing his employer may enter into a confidential settlement agreement with the employer. If the terms of the settlement agreement say that he cannot talk about the agreement, the employee cannot then call his former coworkers who are still employed at the company about it. Disclosing a confidential settlement agreement can form the basis of a lawsuit against the injured claimant for breach of contract, causing the claimant to risk his settlement award.
This also means that those who are involved in a settlement negotiation should also not overshare. It may be smarter to bring up evidence that is damaging to the other side’s case at trial, than during an earlier phase like settlement.
Find the best lawyer for your personal injury case.
An experienced attorney will evaluate the value of your case, including its strengths and weaknesses as well as the best way to move forward. This could mean negotiating or going to trial.
Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer
Without experience in the insurance industry or legal experience, understanding which factors or evidence can help or hurt your case can be difficult to understand.
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.