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How Do Lawyers Negotiate Settlements? (7 Steps Covered)

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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Negotiating with an insurer during a personal injury case can be incredibly stressful, as they usually have skilled negotiators on their side and access to expert legal counsel to help minimize the amount of money they’ll spend.

To secure your rights and interests, you must enlist an attorney knowledgeable in settlement negotiation tactics and who knows how best to fight for what rightfully belongs to you.

Drawing upon my decade of experience as a personal injury lawyer, I can tell you precisely how lawyers act in settlement negotiations in this article.

Quick Summary

  • When insurance adjusters attempt to reduce their liability, they often argue that the medical procedures for an injury were unconnected. 
  • An experienced lawyer can withstand the insurance company adjuster until you receive a suitable settlement offer.
  • The insurance company will likely counter your claim with a settlement offer lower than you requested.

How Do Personal Injury Lawyers Negotiate Settlements?

Two lawyers shaking handsPersonal injury lawyers negotiate settlements by initially evaluating a client’s losses. For this step, it is essential to collect pertinent data and records from expert sources such as medical practitioners and economists.

Personal injury and accident attorneys must be sure to include any probable accident-related expenses in their accounting for clients.

The last thing they would desire is for any money to go unclaimed and have the client bear the burden of these future costs if unforeseen circumstances arise.

Liability

When beginning the settlement negotiation process, it is essential to identify who is responsible and how much liability they hold. In cases of personal injury claims, the at-fault party is usually liable for any damages caused by their negligence; this may change across different states, though.

When an insurance company attempts to minimize the value or deny a client’s claim, they may try and place part of the blame on them. It is paramount that applicable comparative or contributory negligence laws are evaluated when determining liability in this situation.

A lawyer can investigate what happened to ensure their client isn’t being held responsible for more than they should be. Engaging in an independent evaluation makes it easier to counter what the insurance company adjuster has determined as a fault.

Settlement negotiation leads to good resolutions for those involved. However, there are times when it may be more beneficial to pursue litigation, even if the litigation process is expensive.

Personal injury attorneys, mediators, or self-negotiations can all help guide you in the right direction so that you make a decision best suited to your needs [1].

Assessing Total Damage

A lawyer and client assessing total damageA person harmed is typically entitled to seek economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury claim.

If a client cannot make what they earned before their injury or return to work, their lawyer may present the case for compensation due to reduced earning capacity.

To support this claim, an attorney can assemble wage statements and expert testimony demonstrating the difference between pre-injury income and post-injury earnings.

As personal injury attorneys determine their settlements with the insurance company adjusters, they contemplate these damages. However, sometimes the insurance adjuster disputes that these costs are both realistic and pertinent.

Medical Bills

The medical expenses incurred from your injury may vary depending on your state. In certain states, full bills are provided to a jury for consideration before any insurance or contractual adjustments have been made.

So it’s essential to be aware of such discrepancies if you face a court battle over personal injuries and associated costs.

During insurance company negotiations, the insurance company adjusters often try to minimize their responsibility by claiming the medical treatment rendered for an injury is unrelated, especially if there’s a “gap” in care or they disagree with the cost of services.

Savvy personal injury attorneys recognize this tactic for what it truly is and refuse to take it in stride during negotiations. Suppose any of these queries become a major point of contention. 

In that case, they can present evidence through medical records from the treating doctor that reveals how treatment relates to the injuries caused by the incident (e.g., accident or fall). Additionally, your attorney may hire expert witnesses to express their thoughts on whether medical care costs are reasonable.

Conversely, an insurance company may also enlist an “expert” with opinions that match their views. Expert witnesses are reliable professionals who can represent and inform clients of the magnitude of their accident-related losses. 

Related Article: How Are Personal Injury Settlements Calculated?

Insurance Policy Limits

A lawyer teaching insurance policy limits to a clientUnfortunately, injuries can exceed the insurance policy provided by at-fault parties when injuries are particularly severe. In most states, drivers only have a minimum requirement for liability coverage.

They are mandated to carry up to $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident, meaning that an injury’s severity doesn’t necessarily dictate how much money will be covered by their insurance carrier.

During the settlement process, the attorney will endeavor to uncover other potential insurance company policies that may be able to contribute further funding for compensation, such as underinsured motorist policies or additional third-party coverage.

The attorney will then make a determined effort in negotiations to increase the personal injury settlement amount.

Location

Before negotiating a settlement, it is necessary to consider where litigation may take place and what kind of jury would be involved. Several venues are known for favoring individuals injured due to negligence, whereas others tend to limit non-economic damages awarded.

Even though the location is not a key factor in determining the value of a claim, personal injury lawyers and defense attorneys often try to research previous verdicts from certain venues to show juries that injuries are taken seriously.

Negotiations With Insurance Companies

After weighing all the factors, the attorney will be ready to begin negotiating with the insurer. This may involve sending a letter demanding payment of the maximum coverage amount; however, this is subject to change depending on state laws, evidence gathered, and the extent of the injury inflicted.

Insurance companies are known to answer demand letters with a reduced offer, requiring time-consuming negotiations throughout the settlement procedure. However, there might be instances where they refuse cooperation or bargaining.

Lawyers Apply Comparative or Contributory Negligence Laws

Two lawyers talking about negligence lawsIn most U.S. states, such as Georgia, a comparative negligence system is in place regarding personal injury cases.

This implies that even if you have contributed some guilt for an accident and resulting injuries, you can still be eligible to receive compensation from another party; however, the sum will reflect your degree of fault proportionately.

Let’s assume that your client is awarded $100,000 in damages, but they were partly liable for the accident and bear 20% of the responsibility. In this instance, their reward would be proportionally reduced by a fifth to yield an upper-limit demandable amount of $80,000.

Depending on which state you’re in, there are two distinct types of comparative negligence laws to consider:

  • Pure comparative negligence
  • Modified comparative negligence

In contributory negligence states, even a 1% fault from the accident victim will result in no damages being collected [2]. Therefore, clients need to have their entire blame cleared before filing for any compensation, or they may be excluded from receiving anything.

An attorney can utilize the legal framework to safeguard their client and protect them from any unfair tactics an insurance enterprise may use.

For instance, a claims adjuster could aim to assign too much blame for the incident on your customer. An attorney can furnish evidence that refutes those results.

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FAQs

What Is the Best Way to Negotiate a Settlement?

The best way to negotiate a settlement is to use common positive language in respectful and generous negotiations that increase the likelihood of successful settlements and express a desire to meet both your needs as well as those of your opposition.

Doing so can create an atmosphere where mutual agreement is far more achievable.

How Long Does It Take To Negotiate a Settlement?

The amount of time it takes to negotiate a settlement is from a few weeks to a few months.

What Is the Usual Result of a Settlement?

The usual result of a settlement is an agreement. To compensate for the losses they caused due to their negligence, the responsible party must remit a suitable sum as compensation.

Hire an Experienced Lawyer to Negotiate

Personal injury lawyers always have the option to take legal action. In some cases, a lawsuit may be best. It depends on the specific circumstances a client faces.

Contact Schmidt & Clark, LLP to talk to a personal injury attorney about your personal injury case in a free consultation session.

We understand how to negotiate an appropriate settlement that safeguards your client’s best interests and seek compensation with a fair settlement.

Our lawyers will work hard to get the best deal possible, no matter the situation.


References:

  1. https://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/dispute-resolution/negotiating-in-the-shadow-of-the-law-nb/
  2. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/comparative_negligence#:~:text=Under%20the%20contributory%20negligence%20rule,to%20only%20be%201%25%20negligent.

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