Before you try to settle your car accident case, always remember what you’re doing: asking an insurance company to give you money. Remember the only way Allstate, State Farm, GEICO, Progressive, USAA, Nationwide, Travelers, and any other insurance company can keep making billions is to keep it from you.
To prevent a fair car accident settlement, insurance companies employ highly trained representatives called adjusters to wear you down and escape with a cheap settlement. It also helps you don’t know how to value your case for settlement. You’re just an amateur, and they take full advantage.
How do we combat tightfisted insurance companies? I bombard them with evidence I carefully package and explain—designed to show the only right thing to do is pay serious money to settle your car accident case. There are some primary factors to consider in determining how much to ask for, but all my cases get a full evaluation for any legal aspect that can impact settlement value.
To impress the insurance company, any car accident settlement negotiation should involve a demand letter. That’s the industry name for an official settlement offer. Some attorneys wait until the end of the case to do one, but mine often comes in many parts. Instead of dumping a ton of information on the adjuster when you’re released from treatment, forcing him or her to carve out huge blocks of time to review it, I feed them info as we go along. It’s not just me trying to be a nice guy; it helps move your case faster when it matters most—at the end when we’re trying to finalize a settlement to close this chapter of your life.
Here are the steps I take in every case to get a car accident settlement. Some steps are combined, depending on the circumstances.
Our Demand Letter Process to Get a Solid Car or Motorcycle Accident Settlement
1. Prove Fault, Also Called “Legal Liability”
You can’t get a settlement if no one’s at fault. After we get the police accident report, I send it to the insurance company with a letter. In this package, we:
- Describe exactly how the police found fault.
- Lay down the law. I tell the specific traffic law the at-fault driver broke, and why the fault is not just clear, it could lead to punitive damages.
- Include pictures of the wrecked cars and maybe the scene, if we have them.
- Describe the effect of the impact on you, including initial injuries. This gives the adjuster the first whiff of the displeasing aroma that we’ll be holding them accountable for serious injuries.
2. Analyze and Present Medical Records
Medical evidence is critical to your case. To be taken seriously, you’ve got to prove you can get it into evidence in court.
Some attorneys just dump all the medical records on the adjuster at the end of the case, without explanation. Not me. I prefer to set their expectations on how much money they will eventually part with early in the case. It makes it easier in the end.
Most importantly, I explain the records to show I take the case seriously, and I know the medical aspect of the case. Some car accident attorneys don’t do this. I’m not kidding. And I may take it even further by including a questionnaire I prepared for your doctor to answer—highlighting critical aspects of your injuries, treatment, and prognosis.
A doctor’s questionnaire can be especially important when you’re released from treatment. I carefully review the final records to evaluate for permanent injury and future medical care. This is where a doctor’s questionnaire can be vital, as it simply and irrefutably presents evidence of permanent injury, impairment ratings, and future medical care. These factors can tremendously increase the money you can get in your settlement. But they’ve got to be presented the right way, or the insurance company can disregard them.
3. Develop “Pain and Suffering” Damages, Which Aren't Just Pain and Suffering
This is likely the biggest part of your case. While pain and suffering are part of it, it’s way more than that. It’s the losses caused to you as a person. Because we’re all different, this is a chance for us to present the unique harm the accident caused in your life.
Because the law allows recovery for past, present, and future human loss, we track this as your injuries and treatment progress. As we compile this information, I send it to this adjuster in a summary format that’s easy to read and hard to escape.
4. Develop Lost Wages Evidence
A basic part of many serious car or motorcycle accident cases is a settlement for lost income when the doctor kept you out of work due to your injuries. It can get complicated, especially if you’re a professional with unpredictable income or regular performance bonuses.
For the most severe cases, victims who are disabled from the accident can recover lost wages that stretch into the future. Calculating future lost income can be complicated because it may require valuing lost benefits like retirement accounts and health insurance. It’s also got to be reduced to present value. In these cases, we may hire an accountant or economist as an expert to accurately calculate these figures.
5. Present Critical Evidence
This is the fun part for me—figuring out how to creatively use evidence to convince the insurance company it’s got a bad problem requiring a maximum settlement. Pictures speak a thousand words. Video speaks volumes. If I can get it, I may have you record painful treatments. In DUI accident cases, I often present the officer’s dash-cam video to show the adjuster how drunk or high the defendant was when he caused the crash.
Nothing’s off the table here. I’m always open to finding new ways to convince an insurance company to help you.
6. Develop a Strategy to Achieve the Goals of the Most Important Person in the Case—You
Your case is about you. I never lose sight of that. We have honest conversations about your case goals before we ask for a settlement.
7. The Final Step Before the Demand Letter—a Written Settlement Evaluation
I do this to explain to you how I value your case for settlement. It’s a simple but comprehensive document describing the strengths and weaknesses of your case and a range of proper settlement amounts. I’ve been doing this long enough to know it’s hard to pin down any settlement into a single dollar amount. My evaluation is based on what type of jury verdict we could achieve, and because all juries are unique, we have to expect a range of results.
8. The Demand Letter
In most cases, we’ve already sent several letters. The demand in your case is the culmination of them all. Many times, it reviews the final medical records and summarizes your human loss. We make our official settlement offer, justified by the wealth of evidence we’ve already supplied.
After that, settlement negotiations officially start.
9. Settlement Negotiations—Who’s the Boss?
Although this is the most important work I do, I never forget one thing: you’re the boss. I keep you updated with every insurance company counteroffer, including a full discussion of how we should respond to the adjuster.
Hopefully, our strategy ends in a successful settlement. But sometimes the insurance company just won’t do the right thing. That’s a key reason among many to have an experienced car accident lawyer if you’re seriously hurt. When the insurance company doesn't respond with a fair settlement, we file a lawsuit. If you’re still going it alone at this point, it’s like doing surgery on yourself—it won’t end well, and there may be lifelong implications.
Don’t Be Overwhelmed. Give It to a Professional.
If you’re seriously hurt or lost a loved one in a fatal accident, the last thing you need is handling the messy legalities and complications of dealing with an adjuster. Just as you turn over serious medical care to a doctor, you turn over serious legal care to an experienced Spartanburg car accident attorney.
To help folks like you, I offer a download of my FREE BOOK on crash cases.