Personal injury is the most common type of claim filed in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California. You may be entitled to receive compensation if someone else was negligent or reckless in causing your injuries. This is the basics of California personal injury law.
But what remains a mystery for many injured people in California is what things must be said say what actions must be taken to successfully negotiate a fair personal injury settlement. The last thing you would want is settling your claim for less than you are entitled to or receiving no compensation whatsoever.
So today, we asked our Los Angeles personal injury attorney from the Compass Law Group, LLP to outline the basic rules of negotiating a personal injury settlement in a way that would maximize the recoverable amount.
The role of your insurance company in negotiating a settlement
You have probably been told that more than 90 percent of all personal injury cases in California are settled out of court, but what you did not realize is that the vast majority of those cases are settled for less than the injured victims truly deserve. One of the reasons why it happens is because many injured victims choose to stay away from lawyers and end up settling their claim on their own, without having the necessary tools and experience to settle for the amount they deserve.
Insurance companies in Los Angeles and all across California cannot be happier when dealing with an injured victim who is not represented by a lawyer, because insurers can push you around in any direction, shifting the blame onto you, pointing at some non-existent terms and conditions in your insurance policy which reduce recoverable amount, conducting an unfair investigation, and employing all sorts of other dishonest tricks.
Seek medical attention
“The first step you should take before attempting to negotiate a settlement is to seek medical attention,” advises our experienced personal injury attorney in Los Angeles. “Your physician will have to determine what type of injury you have suffered, how severe your injury is, how it is going to affect the quality of your life and your earning capacity, what kind of treatment you require to recover, whether or not you will fully recover, and estimate how much the treatment will cost.”
After you have all of the above-mentioned elements determined, evaluated, and documented by a medical professional, you can move forward with your personal injury claim.
Calculate general and special damages
Unfortunately, many injured victims ignore this step, thinking that their insurance company will do all the calculations for them. And while your insurer will surely be thrilled about having the freedom of calculating your damages, never should you ever think that their calculations reflect the real extent of your damages.
Special damages in a personal injury case include but are not limited to loss of income, property damages, medical expenses, physical therapy and rehabilitation costs, and many other tangible costs (identifiable). Future economic losses can also be considered tangible costs, but only when it is easy to determine how your earning capacity will be impacted by your medical condition.
As for the general damages, they are also called non-economic losses or nontangible costs, and are quite difficult to calculate without the legal help of a Los Angeles personal injury attorney. That is because there are no receipts proving your damages nor is there any magic formula to calculate nontangible costs. General damages include but are not limited to pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, stress and shock, loss of enjoyment in life, humiliation, embarrassment, and many more.
File a personal injury claim
Do not file a personal injury claim with your insurance company before you have had the chance to speak with a skilled lawyer who helps you calculate the above-mentioned damages. Never speak to insurance agents in the absence of your attorney and never give them a recorded statement unless your lawyer tells you to.
Adjust the personal injury claim value
Then, your lawyer will help you adjust the value of your personal injury claim by taking into account such factors as: the number of liable parties, whether your negligence contributed to the accident, whether the defendant is clearly or unclearly at-fault, your characteristics (age, occupation, prior medical history, etc.), the location where you were injured, and any mitigating factors, if any.
Negotiate a personal injury settlement offer
The final step is making your settlement offer to the insurance company and/or the defendant’s lawyer. That is where your lawyer will put his/her years or decades of experience and negotiation skills to use to negotiate the maximum amount. If the other party is unwilling to settle for this specific amount, you will have to choose: (a) to lower the amount in the settlement offer, or (b) go to trial.
Let our best personal injury lawyers in California help you negotiate the maximum settlement offer in your particular case.