What is Negotiation?
Negotiation is used every day. Negotiating is a conflict resolution tool for settling differences between parties. The parties reach an agreement through compromising – neither party wins or loses.
Successful negotiation requires both parties to see some issues from the point of view of the other party. It requires parties to find common ground. By doing so, the parties can have a “win-win” because they each receive something they want.
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Negotiation is an Important Element of a Personal Injury Case
Most personal injury claims in the United States are settled through the negotiation process. Much like business negotiations, negotiating a settlement for a personal injury claim involves identifying the disputed issues that need to be resolved. In accident claims, the disputed issues generally involve fault, liability, and compensation.
Fault & Liability
Fault for an accident is crucial in a personal injury case. Only the person who was at fault for causing your injury can be held financially liable for your injuries. Being liable means that a person has a legal obligation to compensate another person for damages.
Therefore, if the other party disputes fault, negotiation may not be an option to resolve the matter. Instead, you may need a court of law to determine fault and liability. As the victim, you have the burden of proving that the other party was negligent or intentionally caused your injury.
However, the other party does not need to admit fault to settle a personal injury case. The party may still deny the allegation of fault, but agree to settle the claim. The parties may acknowledge that the facts of the case could support either point of view, so they are willing to compromise to reach a fair settlement.
Compensation for Damages
Negotiating agreements to settle injury claims also involves negotiations for compensation. In many cases, agreeing to the value of damages is one of the most disputed issues in a personal injury settlement.
The types of damages for a personal injury include:
- Cost of medical treatment and care
- Loss of income, wages, and benefits
- Cost of personal care and nursing care
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disabilities and impairments
- Loss of future earning potential
The insurance company seeks to pay as little as possible to settle the claim. You want to recover the maximum amount possible for your damages. Negotiation preparation involves gathering evidence and documentation that supports the value you claim for damages.
Evidence used to prove the number of damages may include:
- Copies of medical records and bills
- Statements from your physicians
- Evaluations and assessments by medical experts and specialists
- Documentation of your income and benefits
- Statements from employers verifying missed work
- Evaluation of future loss of income by financial experts
- Copies of bills, receipts, and other evidence of out-of-pocket expenses, such as medical equipment, personal care, travel, help with household chores, etc.
The more evidence you have proving the extent of your injuries and financial losses, the better chance you can negotiate a higher settlement amount.
What Happens During Negotiations for a Personal Injury Settlement?
Once you complete your medical treatment and your doctor releases you from care, your attorney prepares a settlement demand package. The settlement demand package includes a letter outlining several matters such as:
- The allegations of fault for the cause of the accident
- Details about your injuries
- List of your damages
- Copies of supporting documents
- Details of the extent of your damages
- The amount you demand to settle the claim
The demand letter is the beginning of the negotiations for settling a personal injury claim with an insurance company. The insurance company may take several weeks to review the information in the package and respond to the demand. The insurance company can accept or deny the demand, or it could reply with a counteroffer.
A counteroffer sets up the negotiation process. First, your attorney and the insurance company representative discuss the settlement proposals. Then, they may meet several times to argue back and forth about the details of the settlement.
An alternative to a negotiated settlement is mediation or arbitration. These methods are generally used when the parties cannot agree to the terms of a settlement, but they wish to avoid the cost when a party files a lawsuit.
Obtaining a Signed Contract
With the parties reach an agreement, they sign a written settlement agreement. The agreement is legally enforceable as a signed contract. The document outlines the terms of the settlement, including the compensation paid to the victim.
A settlement agreement releases the at-fault party and all other parties from any further liability for your damages. Therefore, you should seek legal advice before signing a settlement agreement for your personal injury case.
Contact Our Fort Worth Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation
You need an attorney at law with strong negotiation skills to assist you with your accident claim. Our Fort Worth accident attorneys are skilled, aggressive negotiators. Contact our office to schedule your free case review to discuss how we can help you recover the compensation you deserve.