Lawyers Explain the Personal Injury Settlement Negotiation Process

Tony CanataPersonal Injury

A major aspect of workers’ compensation, long term disability and personal injury cases is the negotiation process between the two parties. This negotiation process often determines the amount of money that an insurer will pay to settle a claim or a case. Since the vast majority of personal injury and other kinds of cases end in settlement instead of a trial, the negotiation process is primary determiner of damages and is usually handled by skilled lawyers in Northampton, MA or anywhere else. The negotiation process can take a very long time, sometimes years, depending upon many factors, including the willingness of the plaintiff to hold his ground until he or she gets a reasonable offer of settlement.

Personal Injury Settlement

Why Negotiations Can Be Drawn Out

Here are just a few reasons for delays in the settlement process. One, if a case if valuable, an insurance company will typically try to draw out negotiations until the plaintiff becomes frustrated or desperate for money and agrees to settle for less than the case is worth. In Massachusetts, insurers have an obligation to make a prompt, fair and reasonable offer of settlement, but the existence of that law is good evidence that insurers often try to avoid taking such an equitable approach. Two, the claimant may have ongoing medical problems and expenses. If a settlement is reached before reaching a “medical end result,” both sides would be risking the possibility that they case proves more or less valuable than the agreed settlement amount. Three, if the case is weak or there are numerous or complex factual or evidentiary issues, the insurance company will likely negotiate harder and use the potential problems with the plaintiff’s case to settle for less.

Reaching a Settlement

Most settlement negotiations are handled by an attorney from any reputable firm that practices in the particular area of law like The Law Offices of Terrence A. Low and Anthony J. Canata. Even if a person begins by representing himself, it is still a very good idea to consult lawyers in Northampton, MA before agreeing to accept an offer of settlement. An attorney can evaluate the offer and determine how reasonable it is. Many injured people are looking to get money fast and initial offers may seem substantial. Insurance companies rely on this fact and almost always begin by offering far less than they are willing to pay.

When an attorney handles a claim, the negotiation process begins when the attorney makes a demand for settlement. But in the typical negotiation between an insurer and an injured person who is representing himself, the insurer will begin the negotiation by making an offer of settlement. Whichever side started first, the other side will then typically respond with an amount that is not their final, best offer either. Once each side has established a starting point, the sides will go back and forth, exchanging offers and counteroffers while at the same time debating the relative strengths and weaknesses of the case. The process continues until the claimant agrees on an offered settlement amount, or the sides determine that they cannot reach a settlement. The negotiation process usually begins before the claimant has filed suit. If negotiations break down and the claimant files a lawsuit, the negotiations can and usually do continue right up to the day of trial. Some cases even settle during the trial, though that is rare.

Sources:
How the Negotiation Process Works in an Injury Case, NOLO
How Long Will It Take to Settle Your Personal Injury Claim?, AllLaw