What Is Negotiation?

At any given moment, you may be engaged in negotiation. From pursuing a new job to reaching an agreement on what show to stream with your family, negotiation is important when parties disagree. In everyday life, negotiation happens when party A and party B come to an agreement. At its core, negotiating is centered around compromise. 

Negotiation is frequently used in personal injury law. If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may negotiate with an insurance company or other party. Continue reading to learn what negotiation is and how it may affect your Missouri personal injury claim.

Negotiation in Personal Injury Cases

A typical personal injury case involves one person (the plaintiff) suffering an injury that was the fault of another person or entity (the defendant). Depending on liability and other factors, you may find yourself negotiating with either the insurance company or a personal injury attorney.

The crux of the negotiation is that the defendant or party who caused the injury wants to pay as little as possible to the injured party or plaintiff, while the plaintiff seeks to maximize their award. This can lead to negotiations lasting weeks or months, while litigation can take years to resolve the issue. 

What Are the Steps Involved in Personal Injury Negotiation?

While all personal injury lawsuits are different and depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular case, the following steps are generally involved in the negotiation process: 

Gather Evidence and Quantify Damages

The first step in personal injury negotiation for plaintiffs is gathering evidence and determining what their claim is worth. A personal injury attorney will calculate their client’s economic damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and lost earning capacity. The attorney will also quantify non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life. 

Once the attorney calculates all available damages, the amount must be adjusted based on several factors, such as:

  • Whether the defendant is liable or if liability is being disputed
  • The number of defendants
  • Whether the plaintiff mitigated their damages
  • Certain characteristics of the plaintiff, such as age and prior medical history

An attorney may enlist the help of an economic expert to assist in calculating the plaintiff’s damages, including diminished earning capacity. 

Negotiate With the Insurance Company 

Once the plaintiff’s attorney has gathered evidence and calculated a fair settlement amount, they are ready to begin negotiations with the insurance company.

The plaintiff can send the insurance company a demand letter, which lays out the facts of the claim, the fair settlement amount, and a request to settle for that amount.

During negotiations, different issues can be raised, such as:

  • The extent of your injuries
  • The type of medical treatment you have received
  • How long you will require medical treatment
  • The liability of each party
  • The limits and terms of the applicable insurance policy

The insurance company can counter the demand letter, which can be countered by the plaintiff, and so forth until a settlement is reached (or not).

What Happens if Negotiation Fails?

If your negotiation is unsuccessful, you may choose to file a lawsuit within your state’s applicable time period, known as the “statute of limitations.” Typically, you will have five years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury claim in Missouri. However, some cases have shorter deadlines. For example, a medical malpractice claim must be filed within two years from the date of the incident.

However, settlement negotiation doesn’t stop once you file a lawsuit. Most personal injury cases settle without ever going to court. These settlements are reached by the defendant and plaintiff further negotiating, often through an attorney. Attorneys usually take on these cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t owe them money unless you win. 

Once a settlement is reached and the case is closed, you will receive the agreed-upon amount minus attorney fees, court costs, and other related expenses. 

Tips for Negotiating With an Insurance Company

You should speak with a personal injury attorney if you were injured in an accident and allow your attorney to communicate with insurance companies on your behalf. 

However, if you decide to negotiate with an insurance company on your own, here are a few quick tips to maximize your success:

  • Document your injuries, treatment, medical bills, and other medical-related information 
  • Track communications with the defendant and their insurance company
  • Don’t allow yourself to be pressured to accept a low-ball offer
  • Have a settlement amount in mind
  • Know the factors that will affect your payout, like liability and coverage limits
  • Be prepared to explain how you reached the amount you are asking for
  • Ask for justification for counter-offers
  • Consult a personal injury attorney if needed
  • Watch out for unfair settlement tactics

Again, it’s important to note that your insurance company’s goal is to pay as little as possible. This means that the offer you receive may be much less than the value of your damages.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the amount of compensation you can receive is capped by your insurance policy limits. These considerations play a central role in the settlement negotiations.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney For Help After an Accident in Missouri

Contact a personal injury attorney in St. Louis, MO if you’ve been injured in an accident. You don’t have to fight insurance companies alone. An attorney will help you negotiate with insurance companies and other parties to maximize your compensation while you focus on recovering.