When settling a personal injury claim, negotiations usually start when the person you’re claiming against (the defendant) or you, with your personal injury lawyer’s help, put a settlement offer on the table. In high-value cases, this often starts with a joint settlement meeting.
That being said, a settlement offer can come up at any point during a claim. Typically, it happens when you have sorted out all your expert evidence and shared it with the other side. However, sometimes the defendant may send an offer your way before anyone even sees the expert opinions. Or, your solicitor might suggest making an offer to the other party when you show them your medical evidence.
No matter when a settlement offer is presented, the ultimate decision to accept or reject is always yours. But that doesn’t always mean you should grab the first offer presented to you, even if the other side has already admitted liability. With the help of an experienced solicitor, it’s possible to use effective negotiation tactics to make sure that offers reflect what you truly deserve, instead of jumping the gun and settling for way less than you should.
In this article, we’ll look at how the personal injury claims process works and share 10 personal injury negotiation tactics you can use to improve your settlement offer.
How does the personal injury claims process work?
While it’s impossible to say how a specific personal injury claim will progress, there are generally five stages to the process.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident and the other party agrees it’s their fault (known as accepting liability) your solicitor will gather up all the proof to back up your claim and send it to the other side’s solicitor.
Putting a value on your claim
Your solicitor will also help you calculate the value of your claim. To do this, they might look at current guidelines and past cases to figure out a fair compensation figure. Again, once you’ve decided on a figure, they’ll send this over to the other side, which is usually the insurance company of the defendant.
At some point, the defendant’s insurer might come forward with a compensation offer. Usually, this happens after everyone has laid their cards on the table evidence-wise, but it might come sooner.
Following an offer, negotiations will often start. If you’ve instructed a solicitor, they will likely do all the heavy lifting here, talking to the other side to get you the best deal based on your circumstances.
Making a decision
After each offer, your solicitor should keep you in the loop, and together you’ll decide if it’s a fair deal or if you should push for more.
While your solicitor can provide advice and guidance, the final decision is totally up to you. If you turn down an offer, negotiations often continue. If an agreement can’t be reached, the case might go to court, but that’s often a last resort. Generally, your solicitor will work hard to get the best settlement possible without the need for a hearing.
10 personal injury negotiation tactics
Choose your solicitor wisely
When selecting a personal injury solicitor to help you negotiate a settlement, you should find a solicitor who explains things in plain English and breaks down the game plan in a way you understand.
During the negotiation process, you’ll be communicating regularly with your solicitor, therefore you must be both on the same page and ready to collaborate as you work towards a common goal.
Your chosen solicitor should also be clear about their fees, the process, and what to expect. For example, at Lawhive our personal injury solicitors can offer no-win, no-fee services for personal injury claims to help you manage the costs.
We also go to great lengths to ensure the very best solicitor is assigned to your case, so you can be sure they’re passionate and invested in your case from the get-go.
Have a settlement figure in mind
When making a personal injury compensation claim, the main aim is to secure the funds you need to cover your treatment, support, and any money you lost because of an accident. Essentially, compensation is a financial safety net to help you bounce back and go as far as possible to get you back where you were before the injury or accident.
Therefore, before negotiations start, it’s smart to have a clear picture of what support you’ll need and how much that’s going to cost you. This figure will help you quickly assess whether a settlement offer is fair and make a decision based on your needs, instead of a blind stab in the dark.
It’s important to understand that damages aren’t just about medical bills and lost income. There are two main types, which are called economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are things like medical bills, lost income, and anything else with a clear monetary value. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, can be hard to put a price on. They include things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, the loss of joy in life, and even the impact an accident or injury has had on personal relationships.
If you’re not sure how much compensation you need to recover and cover any financial bumps in the road caused by the accident or injury, your personal injury solicitor can help you calculate a realistic figure that’s reflective of any pain and suffering you’ve endured, financial losses, and expenses you may need to cover in the future as a result.
Build a strong case
Your personal injury case should tell a story backed by clear evidence to strengthen your position in negotiations. To build a strong case you’ll need evidence such as medical records, statements from witnesses, and, in some cases, expert opinions. The idea behind this is to paint a clear picture of how the accident affected you, how your injuries have impacted your life, and what financial losses you’ve experienced as a result.
When you’re armed with a strong case that includes a combination of solid evidence and a thorough understanding of your damages, you can enter into negotiations with confidence.
Carefully consider the first offer
It would be irresponsible for us to say you should never accept the first offer. However, you should consider it very carefully.
Sometimes, the other side might throw an offer on the table before all the evidence has been collected and shared. It’s possible that this offer might not reflect what you’re owed for your injuries and losses. However, it may be that the first offer is a fair deal and worth considering.
If the first offer doesn’t quite sit right with you, your solicitor can keep talking to the other side and work towards a better deal. Your satisfaction is key here, don’t be shy about wanting what’s fair.
This brings us nicely to...
Don’t shy away from saying no
Negotiations typically involve a bit of back-and-forth. For example, if the other side comes in with an offer, you might throw in a counteroffer to spice things up. It’s important not to shy away from this process.
Remember: if you agree to an offer and shake hands on a full and final settlement, you can’t reopen the case down the road, even if it turns out your case was worth more than you thought.
Therefore, there are a couple of situations where a solicitor might suggest you say no to an offer.
The first scenario might involve the defendant making an offer before all the important evidence is on the table. In these situations, without all the evidence a claim can’t be properly valued, so it may not be appropriate to seal the deal at this stage. Alternatively, the defendant may make an offer that’s well below what you deserve.
Whatever the circumstances, if you and your solicitor feel that a settlement offer is not appropriate, you are perfectly within your rights to say no and push for a better offer.
Timing is everything
In the course of a legal dispute, either you or the defendant can make a Part 36 offer. This kind of offer is either party's way of communicating they want to settle the case without going to a full-blown court hearing. A Part 36 offer can be made at any point during the claims process, but the receiving party must have at least 21 days to consider it.
If a Part 36 offer is accepted within this time frame, the side making the offer foots the bill for the other party’s costs.
However, a Part 36 offer comes with consequences:
You can’t change or withdraw a Part 36 offer during the 21 days without the court's permission;
If you turn down a Part 36 offer but later can’t beat that offer in court, you might end up paying more in costs;
If you accept a Part 36 offer as a full and final settlement, it’s a done deal. You can’t ask for more money later.
If, in the course of your personal injury case, you receive a Part 36 offer and you think the compensation covers your injuries and losses, you can say yes. However, it’s important to be aware that it’s not uncommon for a defendant’s insurer to make an early Part 36 offer as a way to save money, especially before all the expert evidence is sorted out.
In some cases, accepting may be the most appropriate course of action, sometimes, it could mean you’re settling for less than your case is worth. Timing is everything!
Have a negotiation strategy from the start
Without trivialising the issue, personal injury claim negotiations are sort of like playing a game of chess. Therefore, it’s important to know your case inside and out, including what makes it strong and where its weaknesses lie.
With the help of your solicitor, you should work to identify what matters most to you. With this insight, you can both put together a plan. What this plan looks like will vary depending on your prioritise. For example, you might decide to open with a bold move, like asking for a higher settlement right out of the gate. Alternatively, you might decide to lay all the evidence out first before making a counteroffer.
Just like in chess, you and your solicitor should always think a few moves ahead and be prepared for what the other party might throw your way. This will help you adjust your strategy on the fly and stay in control during negotiations.
Balance assertiveness with diplomacy
Negotiations are all about constructive communication. It’s understandable you may feel emotional during proceedings, however when dealing with insurance adjusters and the other side, it’s important to know when to be firm and when to be diplomatic.
This is, of course, a fine line to toe. However, your solicitor can do a lot of the leg work to help you express your rights and interests while keeping things professional.
Be prepared for counteroffers
Counteroffers are a natural part of settlement negotiations, so it’s important to be prepared for them.
When the other party makes a counteroffer, it’s your choice whether to take it or not. You should take time to weigh the pros and cons of counter offers, without feeling rushed and drawing on the expertise of your solicitor if you have one.
It’s important when dealing with counteroffers to not be reactive. And remember, you can make a counteroffer too that reflects the strength of your case.
Carefully review the final offer
Before you accept an offer, you should make sure that the terms are fair, reasonable, and in your best interests.
A settlement agreement is a legally binding document. Therefore, you should have a thorough understanding of what damages will be paid, any obligations involved, and if there are releases or waivers needed.
Even in this final stage, you should be meticulous in reviewing documents and making sure everything is present and correct until the very end. After all of your hard work, it would be disappointing to fall at the final hurdle because you didn’t fully understand what you were agreeing to.
How can Lawhive help with your personal injury claim?
At Lawhive, we're dedicated to helping everyone access justice when they need it. If you've been injured in an accident that wasn't your fault, whether at work, in public, on holiday, or on the road, our personal injury solicitors can help you claim compensation that's reflective of the ordeal you've gone through.
To find out more, get a free case assessment from our legal assessment team. This no-obligation chat with our experts can help you understand the strength of your case and decide how to move forward.