Settling a Personal Injury Case- Demand

The next posts under the topic “How I Practice Law” discuss the settlement of a personal injury case.

Be Able to Try the Case. An insurance adjuster has little motivation to settle a personal injury case for fair value unless he knows the lawyer can and will take the case to trial. This is because an experienced personal injury lawyer who is prepared to try the case presents a risk to the insurance company. Settlement allows the insurance company to contain the case at a level it is willing to pay. This is why the injured party needs an experienced trial lawyer to get fair value for his case.

Minimum Policy Limits. In Washington State minimum liability policy limits are $25,000 single injury and $50,000 aggregate. This means no one injured person can collect more then $25,000 and the insurer is not obligated to pay more then $50,000 total for all occupants injured by the driver of the insured vehicle. In Washington, we know an insured driver has policy limits of at least $25,000/$50,000.

Determining Policy Limits. As soon as we know we have a case with a value of $25,000 or more we contact the adjuster and tell him we believe we have a case that exceeds his limits. Assuming we know our case has a value of $25,000 to $50,000 we can tell the adjuster if he has $50,000 or $25,000 we will send him a limits demand. We will wait only if he has $100,000 or more. Usually the adjuster will respond by showing his limits hand or enough of his hand for us to determine the range of the third party limits.

Prompt Settlement Demand. In a limits case we send the settlement demand  as soon as we have the medical records, reports and/or economic loss documentation to demonstrate case value. In a case where limits exceed case value we send the demand as soon as treatment is complete and we have the value documentation we would have at trial. In a limits case we notify our client’s automobile insurer and have it open an under-insured motorist claim. We send the insurer the settlement demand we send the third party carrier.

Content of Demand Package. The demand package begins with the demand letter. The letter has the following sections: Summary of Exhibits. This is the table of contents. Background. This is the section were our plaintiff is described. We cover education, family, employment and physical activities before injury. Facts of Injury. Here the mechanism of injury is set forth. Investigation. Discussion of police report accident investigation. Property Damage. For instance in an automobile collision case the amount of damage to vehicles. Injuries. A general outline of injuries without an ad nauseam blow by blow repeat of the records. Medical Specials Summary.  Amounts totaled by provider. Plaintiff Today. Impact of injuries on client’s life. Evaluation and Demand. Summary of why case has value and amount of demand. The exhibits follow which include police report, property damage statements, medical records, tax returns and pay information, and expert reports.

Amount of Demand. We demand the same amount we will ask the jury for at trial. This is the maximum case value. No addition to the maximum case value. This is a credibility matter. The plaintiff graveyard is littered with plaintiff lawyers who ask too much for a case. If it’s too much to ask a jury it’s too much to ask the adjuster. We base case value on our experience (my partners and I have more then 100 years collective experience), on jury and settlement results and on the unique aspects of the case. This is discussed with client and we have client authority for demand.

In the next post we discuss negotiation and settlement.

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