After sustaining injuries in an auto accident, you may be wondering what you need to do to quickly get a check in your hands so you can begin down the road to recovery. One of the ways to do this is through settlement negotiations. With most car accident claims settling before trial, knowing how to negotiate your car accident settlement correctly is essential.
Going about settlement negotiations in the right way can make a big difference in the amount of your recovery. It’s important to take the time to familiarize yourself with all aspects of settling a car accident case, so you are well prepared to get the maximum amount possible. Here’s what you need to know about settling your car accident case.
Why Do Most Car Accident Cases Settle?
The vast majority of car accident cases never get to a jury trial. Most accident cases settle because of a few factors working together. First, Florida has broad discovery rules. It’s quite easy for both parties to gather evidence.
You can demand information from the other side. You can even conduct a deposition of the other driver and depose other witnesses. When both sides have a clear understanding of the facts, they can agree on the general value of the claim. There’s not much to argue about if you can agree on the approximate value of your case and your likelihood of success at trial.
Cases also settle because the courts order the parties to try and resolve them. There’s a good chance that the court will order you to attend mediation. The court will also probably insist that you participate in a settlement conference. With so many opportunities to talk about the case, parties are often able to meet in the middle and reach a resolution.
Benefits of Settling
When you settle, you don’t have the stress of a trial. You’re also likely to have lower legal costs and attorney fees. In addition to these benefits, when a defendant agrees to pay a judgment in a settlement, they’re more likely to pay the judgment quickly. That can make a mediated settlement preferable for the practical reason that you’re more likely to get paid.
Because most car accident cases involve an insurance company, one of the things you need to get right is your demand letter. A demand letter is a letter that you send to the insurance company outlining what you want them to pay. It’s not enough just to give a total dollar amount and hope they accept. Instead, you need to carefully document the reasons you’re insisting on a certain amount.
A demand letter can be aggressive and forward, but it must also be professional. The demand letter should also have your contact information and a brief statement of the underlying facts of the claim. The insurance company uses the demand letter to evaluate your claim. If they agree with you, they might extend a settlement offer.
Related: How to Sue After a Car Accident
Negotiating Considerations and Process
In most cases, the first offer that the insurance company extends isn’t going to be the best offer. They’re going to hope that you take the first, low offer. That’s how they save money.
There’s some back and forth to negotiating a settlement. If their offer is low, you need to explain why and demand a better offer. This process requires tact and knowing when to push forward and when to sit and wait.
Mediation is a process that gets both sides at the same table to talk about the case. You work with a mediator that has professional training in helping people resolve disputes just like yours. A mediator can’t make the parties enter into a settlement, but they can help the parties work to reach their own resolution.
Mediation can work in even tough cases. With a neutral third party to act as a go-between, the parties can discuss all the issues in the case in a relatively short period. The parties can also reach an agreement that’s more flexible than they might receive if they wait to resolve the case in court.
How Long Do I Negotiate?
If the insurance company doesn’t send a meaningful response to your demand letter or if they try to use delay tactics, it might be time to begin preparing your case for trial. As long as settlement negotiations appear constructive, they’re worth pursuing. When they stall, and the other side isn’t being reasonable, it’s time to get ready for your trial date.
It’s important not to spend too much time negotiating before you formally file your lawsuit because Florida has time limits for filing a case. This is referred to as the statue of limitations. Once you file, you can pursue a settlement up until your trial date, but don’t let that stop you from thoroughly preparing your case, so you’re ready for any eventuality.
Factors That Affect Settlement
If your damages are high, the other side may want to avoid a trial. However, if the evidence in your case is questionable, and the other party feels there’s a chance that they could win at trial, they’re less likely to extend a favorable settlement offer.
The other side is going to evaluate your case in all respects. They’ll look at witness credibility and whether they think you’re serious about taking your case all the way if they don’t extend a favorable settlement. The stronger your case overall, the better your settlement is likely to be.
Drafting Settlement Documents
Remember that your settlement is what’s signed and in writing. If you want something to be part of the final settlement agreement, you must make sure that it’s reduced to writing.
Also, make sure that you carefully read each part of the settlement. Words have meaning, and if there’s any question, a court is going to look at the exact language of the settlement agreement. It’s vital to work deliberately as you draft and review settlement documents.
How Do I Get It Right?
When you’re hurt in a car accident, your attorney helps you with every aspect of bringing your claim. Knowing the law is only one way that your attorney helps you. You also rely on your lawyer to help you handle the art of negotiation.
An experienced Tampa car accident attorney can write a demand letter on your behalf and take care of complicated communications with the insurance company and the other driver. With the right attorney, you can focus on your recovery.
Get Help From a Skilled Car Accident Attorney
Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys is well versed in handling both settlement negotiations, and taking car accident cases to trial. We have the expertise to help you garner a favorable settlement offer and get the maximum compensation available.