This is Part Four of our Anatomy of a Lawsuit series. So far, we have covered hiring an attorney, investigation of your claim and getting treatment. The next stage in your lawsuit is pre-suit negotiation, often called “making a demand.”
In most personal injury cases, your attorney has two years from the date of the collision to file a lawsuit against the other driver. Often however, your attorney will try to settle your case before a lawsuit is ever filed. This happens for many different reasons; it’s more cost effective to you, it resolves your case quicker and it doesn’t unnecessarily clog up the courthouse.
A pre-suit “demand” is a letter written by your attorney to the insurance adjuster for the at-fault driver making a demand for payment. Once you have finished your medical treatment, your attorney will order copies of your medical records and bills, and then send the letter. Other documents that might be included with the demand are the police report, photographs of your injuries or your vehicle, statements from your employer about wages lost, statements from your doctors regarding the permanency of your condition, etc. The goal of this demand letter is to show the extent of your injuries, the cost of your medical treatment and any other damages you may have incurred.
Once the demand has been sent, it is customary to allow the insurance adjuster thirty days to review all the information. After a thorough review, the insurance adjuster will make an “offer” – that is, the amount of money they believe your case is worth. From here, your attorney and the insurance adjuster will negotiate a dollar amount somewhere between the demand and the offer that both parties can agree on. It’s much like buying a house or a car; there is usually a number in the middle that satisfies both sides.
In some cases, the two parties cannot agree on a number before the two years expires, or the client has such extensive injuries it takes longer than two years to finish medical treatment. In those cases, your attorney will be forced to file a lawsuit. This certainly doesn’t mean you have a bad case, or you are going to lose. Sometimes, one or both sides simply needs additional information before they can agree on a number.
It has been estimated that 99% of lawsuits, or potential lawsuits, end in settlement. Given the odds, it makes sense that your attorney would try to settle your case without filing a lawsuit. Have a legal question about your case? Call our offices, one of our attorneys will be glad to speak with you.