Jason Stephens | June 28, 2022 | Personal Injury
What is “pre-litigation”? Litigation means taking your case to court, and pre-litigation is the period that precedes taking your case to court. Most claimants resolve their claims through an out-of-court settlement.
Nevertheless, sometimes it is necessary to initiate the early stages of litigation just to stimulate the defendant to issue a reasonable settlement offer. You may also need to file a lawsuit to meet the applicable statute of limitations. Following are the most important steps you need to take before you file a personal injury lawsuit.
The Initial Consultation With an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
The first step is to schedule an initial consultation with a well-regarded personal injury lawyer. Typically, personal injury lawyers offer free, no-obligation consultations. The purpose of the consultation is to determine whether your claim is worth pursuing. It also allows you to determine if the attorney is a good fit.
Ask your lawyer what evidence you should prepare for the consultation.
Such evidence might include:
- Photos of the scene of the accident
- Your medical records
- A copy of the accident report or police report
- Information about possible defendant and witness contact and insurance information
- Other evidence
Your lawyer may want this information immediately, or they may want it after you have hired them to represent you.
The Investigation Phase
The purposes of the investigation phase are:
- To determine whether you have a viable claim
- To better understand the strengths and weaknesses of your claim
- To bolster your claim with evidence you can use both in court and at the settlement table
This knowledge will help you calculate the value of your claim.
Sending the Settlement Demand Letter
A settlement demand letter gives the defendant and their insurance company formal notice that you have a claim. The best advice for writing a settlement demand letter is to let your lawyer write it for you – or at least let your lawyer review it before sending it.
Your letter should include:
- The identities of the parties involved in the accident, as well as their insurance companies
- A brief description of the accident (don’t provide too much detail at this point)
- A description of your injuries and losses
- A demand for compensation
Speak with your lawyer about whether to demand a specific amount of compensation. If your losses are significant, you might want to demand the policy limits.
The Reservation of Rights Letter
The insurance company will send you a reservation of rights letter. This letter will state that the insurance company reserves the right to deny your claim if it turns out to be invalid. Don’t worry about this, because it is routine.
Negotiating with the insurance adjuster might be the most difficult part of your case-–even more difficult than going to trial. Insurance adjusters are professional negotiators who know the relevant law (for example, Texas law regarding car accidents). Insurance adjusters also tend to be adept at using tactics to deny your claim or lower its value.
For this reason, you need a personal injury lawyer to negotiate with the insurance adjuster on your behalf. The same advice applies if you are negotiating directly with a defendant.
Remember that a pre-litigation settlement can be quick and easy, but it might also be insufficient. Talk to your lawyer before you agree to any pre-litigation settlement.
Watch Out for These Insurance Company Tactics
Insurance adjusters have hundreds of tricks up their sleeves.
The following are some of the most common:
- Getting you to consent to make a recorded statement and then asking you tricky questions
- Getting you to sign over permission to view all of your medical records, not just those related to your accident
- Issuing a lowball pre-litigation settlement offer while you are still in the hospital and the hospital is pressuring you for money
An experienced personal injury attorney won’t fall for insurance company strategies because they have heard them all before.
Drafting a Complaint
Once you file a formal complaint, the pre-litigation phase is over, and the litigation phase begins. The drafting of the complaint, however, is something you do during the pre-litigation phase. It is the last step you take before you begin litigation. Let your lawyer do this for you because a single mistake could damage your claim.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Navigate the Pre-Litigation Phase of Your Case
It’s best to hire a lawyer to represent you in a personal injury case. An experienced personal injury lawyer can maximize the chances of winning your claim in court or at the settlement table.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in Fort Worth, TX
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Fort Worth and need legal help, contact our Fort Worth personal injury lawyers at Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents to schedule a free consultation.
Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents
1300 S University Dr # 300
Fort Worth, TX 76107