Settlement Negotiations and Personal Injury Litigation-More Strategies
It is not unusual for a lawyer to make a settlement demand without consulting first with the client. The opening settlement demand is always for an amount that is well in excess of the actual value of the case. There is no danger that the insurance company will capitulate by settling the case for that amount.
The insurance company always offers less than the settlement demand. Once that offer is made, the client must be informed of the offer and serious negotiation can then begin with the client’s active participation. Getting your pre-approval before making the initial high demand may unnecessarily delay your lawyer’s handling of the case.
Also, since the lawyer is the one with the expertise on monetary values, he or she can safely make a high initial demand without potentially compromising your rights. The average plaintiff has relatively little understanding of what an effective opening settlement demand is. There is generally little to be gained by involving you in the process of formulating an opening demand, especially since, as soon as the opening offer is made, the plaintiff must be advised of it.
Knowing What You Are Up Against
Every plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer will tell you that there are certain insurance companies in their geographical area, that always negotiate unreasonably. It is impossible to get anywhere with an insurance company that negotiates with this philosophy. If you know that you are facing one of these companies, file a suit now and plan on taking your case all the way to court. There is no point in wasting your time.
It pays to know your enemy. If you have a friend or family member who is a personal injury lawyer and who will not mind advising you, you can find out the character of the insurance company with which you are dealing. Suffice it to say that there are no insurance companies these days that will offer you fair value on a substantial personal injury case without your having fully proven your entitlement to that compensation. But some are worse than others and it is very helpful to know just what you are facing when you take on a casualty insurance company.
The same rule applies to the insurance defense firm that is assigned to defend against your lawsuit. Each law firm has its own philosophy of how to litigate. The more you can learn about the law firm and the particular attorneys handling your case, the better prepared you will be to fight the litigation war. You might want to consult Martindale Hubbell, a publication that provides law firm profiles in all fifty states. Check out the website of the firm you are facing, too. Do an Internet search and see what you come up with.
One final important rule regarding settlement strategy of any personal injury case-it is impossible to properly assess the settlement value of a case until your medical situation has stabilized. Never settle a personal injury case until the treatment is completed, or, if the treatment will be ongoing for many years, until a statement from the treatment physician indicates the prognosis for the future. Make sure that you do not begin thinking about settlement until you have a very clear idea about what the future holds for you. Otherwise it is simply not possible to know what the case is worth. If you are going to need treatment for many years, and possibly surgery, your doctor must say so in a medical report in order for you to obtain the highest possible settlement offer from the insurance company. He or she should also estimate your future expected medical costs.