What Happens During the Pre-Litigation Phase of My Personal Injury Case?
April 19, 2023 | Winters & Yonker, P.A. | Personal Injury
What is pre-litigation? The entirety of a typical personal injury claim technically constitutes the pre-litigation phase; most personal injury claims never make it to court. Even when they do, however, an important part of the case will probably take place before you ever file a lawsuit.
The Initial Consultation
Almost any personal injury lawyer will offer you a free initial consultation. This is the first step in resolving a personal injury claim, at least if you hire a lawyer. The purpose of an initial consultation, from the lawyer’s point of view, is to determine whether your case is worth pursuing. From your point of view, it should be whether you need a lawyer and whether the lawyer you are consulting with is the right fit for you.
Insurance companies pay most successful personal injury claims. If you retain a lawyer, they will send the insurance company a letter notifying them of the existence of your claim and requesting confirmation of the extent of your insurance coverage.
The Preliminary Investigation
One of the first questions you must answer is how much your personal injury case is worth. If you don’t know how much, you will have no idea how much to demand from the defendant or their insurance company. During a preliminary investigation, you or your lawyer might:
- Request your medical records;
- Interview witnesses;
- Photograph the scene of the accident;
- Obtain a copy of the accident report or police report; and
- Gather any other evidence that is both relevant and available.
Since no two personal injury claims are identical, the type of evidence will vary from case to case.
The Demand Letter
Your lawyer will send a formal demand letter to the defendant or the insurance company. The demand letter will:
- Describe the accident that injured you;
- State why you are entitled to compensation;
- State why the recipient is responsible; and
- Demand payment.
The demand letter might not demand a specific dollar amount of compensation, and it might not set a specific deadline for a response. Its main purpose is to begin the negotiation process. The recipient, if an insurance company, will probably send a “reservation of rights letter” in response.
Negotiation is the process of argument and compromise, hopefully leading to a monetary settlement. During pre-litigation negotiation, the defendant is likely to refuse your claim or offer a woefully inadequate settlement amount. Your lawyer will advise you whether a particular offer is sufficient or inadequate. For a while, the negotiation process might resemble a ping-pong game of offer and counteroffer.
At some point, you might need to make an ultimatum by issuing the opposing party your final pre-litigation settlement offer. If they refuse the offer, it might be time to go to court. If they accept your offer, however, you should instruct your lawyer to draft a settlement and release agreement to turn their acceptance of your offer into a binding contract.
Once both parties sign the settlement agreement, you might still have to wait a few weeks for the money to arrive in your bank account. If the opposing party refuses to pay even after signing a settlement agreement (which isn’t likely), you can sue them on an ordinary contract claim.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer Even if You Seek a Private Settlement
Most claimants prefer a private settlement because they are typically quicker and easier to obtain than court judgments. However, a personal injury lawyer can help you just as much in settlement negotiations as they can after you file a lawsuit.
Even if you file a lawsuit, they can help you settle before trial. Most importantly, they can help you walk away with more money than you might have won otherwise.
Contact the Tampa Personal Injury Law Firm of Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers for Help Today
For more information, please contact Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer in tampa today. We have five convenient locations in Florida, including Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, and Lakeland.
We proudly serve Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, Polk County, and its surrounding areas:
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Tampa Office
601 W Swann Ave, Tampa, FL 33606
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater Office
600 Bypass Dr Suite 224-D, Clearwater, FL 33764
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – St. Petersburg Office
111 2nd Ave NE Suite 350, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – New Port Richey Office
5006 Trouble Creek Rd Unit #200, Port Richey, FL 34652
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Lakeland Office
1543 Lakeland Hills Blvd Suite 18, Lakeland, FL 33805