Personal injury cases involve accident victims seeking compensation for damages caused by other parties. Personal injury claims can involve a car accident, medical malpractice, slip and fall accident, product liability, and other negligence and wrongful conduct.
Filing a personal injury claim generally begins with filing an accident claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. For example, you would file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company if you were injured in a car crash.
Most personal injury cases settle with the insurance company. Therefore, it helps to understand the process of settling a personal injury claim with an insurance company.
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Notifying the Insurance Company of a Claim
First, you need to notify the insurance provider that you are entitled to compensation for damages. It is best to contact insurance companies to file a claim as soon as possible after an accident or injury.
You might also want to file a claim with your insurance provider. If the at-fault party’s insurance coverage does not pay all your damages, you could be entitled to compensation from your insurance company.
Furthermore, you could have no-fault coverage that might help you with medical bills and lost wages while you wait to settle with the at-fault party’s insurance provider.
Gathering Documentation and Evidence
Information and evidence useful in proving a personal injury claim include:
- Medical records
- Accident reports
- Insurance policy information and coverage amounts
- Copies of photographs or videos of the accident and the accident scene
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Proof of damages
- Photographs of your injuries
- Letter from your employer regarding lost wages
- Statements from your doctor explaining your injuries and prognosis
- Property damage reports
The more information you gather, the better prepared you are to write a settlement demand letter. Until now, you have only notified the insurance company of your claim. You have not demanded a settlement or a specific amount to settle your claim.
Prepare a Settlement Demand Letter
After you complete medical treatment, you prepare a settlement demand letter. The demand letter asks for money for the damages you sustained because of an injury. Generally, an accident claim includes compensation for economic damages (financial losses) and non-economic damages (pain and suffering).
Demand letters prepared by personal injury lawyers typically include:
- A summary of how the injury or accident occurred
- The legal grounds for holding the other party liable for damages
- An explanation of your injuries, including the type and extent of your injuries
- A list of the damages you sustained
- The monetary amount you demand for settlement
You do not want to submit a settlement demand letter until you recover fully from your injuries. Until then, you cannot know the extent of your injuries and damages. You could have sustained a permanent impairment, which increases the value of your personal injury case.
Negotiating a Settlement with the Insurance Company
You need to know exactly what your claim is worth and what a fair amount would be to compensate you for your damages, including the lowest amount you are willing to accept to settle your personal injury claim.
Once you receive the response from the insurance company, consider the company’s settlement offer. Your demand should be the maximum amount you believe your case is worth.
The insurance company will likely return a counteroffer for a lower amount. Consider whether the offer is higher than your lowest figure. If the amount is just slightly above the lower limit for your claim, make a counteroffer for a higher amount.
You have the right to reject the insurance company’s offer and make a counteroffer. Your counteroffer is essentially a second demand letter. Highlight the evidence supporting your claim and address any reasons the insurance company gives for lowering the claim amount.
Consider the Final Settlement Offer by the Insurance Company
Settlement negotiations could involve several back-and-forth settlement offers. However, the insurance company will likely make a final settlement offer and stick to it.
You need to consider whether the final settlement offer is sufficient to compensate you for your damages. If you agree to a settlement offer, it is important to understand what that means.
When you sign a settlement agreement with the insurance company, you release all parties from further liability for your claim. That means you give up the right to sue anyone for more money, even if you discover additional damages or realize the insurance company paid you less than your claim is worth.
Therefore, it can be wise to have a lawyer review the settlement agreement and offer before you sign any documents. If the insurance company is trying to cheat you out of the money you deserve, you need to know it before you sign a final settlement agreement.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer to Settle an Insurance Claim?
You are not required to seek legal advice or hire an injury lawyer to settle an insurance claim. However, an attorney fights to recover maximum compensation for a personal injury claim. Furthermore, lawyers understand the value of damages, so they know when an insurance company is intentionally undervaluing a claim.
Consider consulting an attorney before accepting an insurance settlement offer if:
- You sustained severe injuries and/or permanent impairments
- The insurance company refuses to justify why it denied a portion of your claim
- The settlement offer does not compensate you for all damages
- You are unsure what damages you can recover or what those damages are worth
- Your child was injured in an accident or by another party
- A government agency is involved in the case
- Multiple parties could share liability for your claim
- A commercial truck was involved in the accident
- The insurance company alleges you are partially to blame for your injury (contributory fault)
If you have any doubts or questions about a settlement offer, you should talk with a lawyer before going forward. However, do not delay in seeking legal advice. The Maryland statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is three years from the injury date, but there could be exceptions to that rule.
Schedule Your Free Consultation with a Baltimore Personal Injury Lawyer
Settling a personal injury claim with an insurance company means you give up your right to pursue a legal claim. Before you give up your rights, let our lawyers review your case. Call us to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced Baltimore personal injury attorneys.