If you’ve been the victim of someone else’s negligence, you have likely suffered losses mentally, physically, or financially during the fallout afterward. When it comes to securing compensation for those losses, victims often decide to reach a settlement for their claim, as opposed to going to trial.
Settlements are usually more common than trials and are considered to be less risky, faster, and more affordable. Generally, when a settlement agreement is reached, the responsible party pays an amount to compensate for the “damages,” or losses, their negligence caused the victim.
But how long does it take to reach this agreement? Every case has unique circumstances, but there are some common factors in negotiations that can give you an idea of what timeline to expect. Understanding what variables can shorten or lengthen settlement negotiations could also make the process less stressful and faster for you.
What Is A Negotiated Settlement?
Reaching a successful settlement agreement typically involves determining an amount for the responsible party to pay in compensation. Deciding on that number typically includes a back-and-forth exchange with the two parties trading offers to reach an agreed-upon amount.
Usually, this ends in a settlement agreement and the matter is resolved. Other times, the parties cannot agree and are locked in disagreement. This is called an “impasse” and oftentimes results in the parties finding another way to try reaching a settlement.
How Do You Begin A Negotiation?
Negotiations begin when the party bringing the claim sends a demand letter to whom they’d like to reach a settlement. The party receiving the demand letter could be the party that was negligent, or it could be an insurance company (as in cases involving car accidents and personal injuries).
A demand letter typically includes the amount the victim would like to be paid in compensation and can also mention details that support their claim. Insurance companies can take weeks to respond to demand letters and in some cases may ignore them altogether.
A delay in an insurance company getting back to you about a demand letter could be due to a backup in the claims adjuster’s workload. It could also be from the insurance company investigating your claim, which can include reviewing the accident, examining your injuries, and finding who was at fault.
The Legal Settlement Negotiation Timeline
If the other party does respond to a demand letter, the response will likely be in the form of a counteroffer. A counteroffer is typically the act of offering an alternative number that they would like you to agree to, but you don’t have to agree.
Negotiations can take weeks to several months and usually come to an end when both parties are agreeable to a number that has been offered. In the process of negotiating to settle, parties will typically refuse offers and make counteroffers in different amounts.
Negotiating Accident Claim Settlements
If you find yourself in this back-and-forth exchange with an insurance company over an accident claim, the length of time for negotiations often depends on three factors: the strength of your case, how quickly you would like to settle, and the amount for which you are willing to settle.
These factors often come into play because insurance claims adjusters often try to lower the amount the insurance company will have to pay for your injuries from the accident. They may use tactics to see if you can accept a lower settlement offer.
The insurance company’s strategy behind this is to limit their payout for claims as much as possible. One way adjusters try to get that result in negotiations is by disputing facts and asking questions about your claim.
Elements of a claim that adjusters often call into question include:
- the necessity of your medical treatments after an accident
- the length of time you received medical treatment
- the severity of your injuries
- whether your policy covers the accident claim
- if you were at fault for the accident
Determining The Strength Of Your Claim
As you provide proof for your claim and answer an adjuster’s questions during negotiations, the strengths and the weaknesses of your case will likely be brought to light. Difficulties in your case can have the effect of lengthening the negotiation process.
For instance, if you were hurt in a car accident, but it’s unclear who is at fault, it may be a challenge to negotiate how much compensation should be paid. If it’s hard to find who was legally responsible for your injuries, the final amount you are seeking may be more difficult to reach.
Every case is different, so it’s best to speak with an attorney if you have any questions about the strengths and weaknesses of your claim.
How Quickly Should You Settle Your Claim?
If you have been injured, the other party (the defendant or the insurance company) may be aware that you are likely facing medical bills and/or lost wages that are growing over time. As a result, they may be hoping that it will motivate you to settle at an earlier time. An attorney can help you to decide when is best to accept an offer.
Negotiating A Final Settlement
At the start of negotiations, you may have a specific number in mind for what you are willing to accept in compensation. If the other party’s offer is lower than what you had hoped for, or will not cover the costs of your injuries or damages, then the negotiations may continue for more time.
On the other hand, negotiations are usually brought to an end once an agreeable number is offered. Since no two cases are alike, you may want to ask an attorney about what a fair settlement amount would be for your claim.
Factors To Speed Up A Settlement
While there is no single answer for how long settlement negotiations take, there are some factors that have been known to make the process go more smoothly and quickly:
Preparation Of Your Claim
How well you have prepared your claim can affect how long negotiations will take. For instance, if you and your attorney have put the time in to prepare all stages of your claim, with supporting documents and well-thought-out offers, you are more likely to receive the results you are seeking and shorten the period for negotiations.
You may be able to help negotiations move forward by keeping a record of all documents that you send, as well as any deadlines promised for offers and counteroffers.
Showing the other party that you are committed to your claim can go a long way towards reaching a settlement more quickly. You can do this by regularly and actively following up on offers and counteroffers during negotiations. It may also help to be sure that you are securing dates for when you should expect to receive an offer or more information.
Controlling Your Emotions
There is no doubt that victims of negligence suffer losses in many ways. These losses can take a toll, and the process of negotiating can certainly test someone’s emotions. As easy as it may be to lose control, taking things personally or letting emotions control your decisions could cause a delay in reaching a settlement. It may help you to remember that negotiations help all parties to reach the larger goal of agreeing to settle.
Although you have likely had to wait some time to reach the stage of settlement negotiations, it could benefit your case’s outcome to stay patient when considering offers. If you can stand to wait, there are times when it helps to hold off.
For instance, when you get an offer that doesn’t cover your losses, or if an adjuster tempts you with a quick but low settlement, consider if it’s in your best interest to accept the offer.
What To Do If Parties Cannot Agree
If parties cannot reach an agreement after negotiating for some time, it could be because the party bringing the claim has rejected the insurance company or defendant’s last counteroffer.
When this happens, and parties reach an impasse, it’s common for the plaintiff’s attorney to file a lawsuit while settlement talks continue. Although it may seem odd, parties will often reach a settlement in the time before they go to trial over a claim.
Getting Help With Your Negotiation Process
At Florin|Roebig, our attorneys are experienced with protecting victims’ rights when filing a claim, reaching a settlement, or going to trial. Let our results-driven team help you get the compensation you deserve. Call us today for a free case evaluation.