How Can I Settle my California Personal Injury Claim with an Insurance Company or the Defendant?

In general, it is highly advisable to hire or at least consult an attorney if you think you have a personal injury claim. The attorneys of Theta Law Firm can help you achieve the best possible results.

The following are some tips on how to settle your personal injury claim quickly and favorably. Each case is different, so you should always consult your attorney before trying to handle your claim on your own. This is not an exhaustive list or a complete guide at all, so talk to an experienced attorney!

    1. Diagnose, treat, and document. First and foremost, you want to make sure that your injuries are completely diagnosed. If you are going to need future care, you want to have a very clear idea of what further treatment you will need. You'll want to complete as much of your treatment as you can before bringing your claim. Everything should be documented. This is important because it will help you assign a dollar value to the medical expense part of your claim. Keep a journal so you can keep track.

    2. Determine your estimated damages. Prepare a list of your damages and add them up. In your estimate, you should include everything you can possibly think of and err on the side of being over-inclusive, but don't exaggerate. Your damages might include any of the following:

    • Past and future medical expenses necessitated by the injury.
    • Past and future wages that you have lost as a result of the injury.
    • Permanent injury, disability, or disfigurement.
    • Value of damaged property.
    • Pain and suffering that you endured during and immediately after the injury should be assigned a value.
    • Emotional distress suffered as a result of the injury should be valued.
    • Assign a value to any loss of consortium. In California, a victim's spouse/domestic partner can bring his/her own separate claim for loss of consortium.
    3. Identify all defendants. If there's more than one possible defendant (party responsible for your injuries), you want to make sure you have a clear understanding of who they are and what their percentage of responsibility is for your injury. Determining possible defendants is not as easy as you might think and you should definitely consult an attorney on this.

    4. Send a demand letter. If you're dealing with an insurance company, they will generally make an offer to settle the claim with you. If they don't do so in a timely manner or if they made you an offer that you're not happy with (which is almost always the case with the first offer), then consider sending them a demand letter. A written demand letter outlining your claim can be an effective negotiating tool (and again, you should have an attorney prepare this). You want to set forth the following in your demand letter:

    • Identify the legally responsible party.
    • Describe why that party is legally responsible for your injuries. This is your opportunity to tell your story in a concise, but effective narrative. You want to give the insurance company or the defendant an idea of what they might be up against at trial. If there are reasons a jury might be sympathetic to you, you may want to describe them here. You have to be careful, though, not to give up too much information so that if the case does go to trial you haven't put all of your cards on the table (again, talk to an attorney about this).
    • Provide key evidence. If you have evidence such as a police report that describes the incident favorably for you, consider providing that along with your demand letter. Again, you should be careful not to disclose too much at this stage.
    • Itemize your damages as set forth in step 2 above. Give a description of the injuries and treatment you had to undergo.
    • Conclude your letter with a lump sum demand amount. Demand more than what you would be willing to settle for. For example, if you want to settle for $7,500, demand $10,000 or more. This will give you some negotiating room.
    5. Negotiate. Don't take the first number the opposing side throws at you. If the insurance adjuster or whoever you are dealing with makes you a low ball offer, make a counteroffer and point out the reasons why the opposing party's offer was too low. Be patient; you may have to make several back-and-forth offers before you come to an agreement. A few negotiating tactics to keep in mind are:

    • Talk about the emotional and human side of your claim, including the pain, suffering, and emotional distress you went through.
    • Rehash the items in your demand letter, if necessary.
    • Ask the opposing side to explain how they calculated the amount they are offering. Point out the flaws in their analysis, including any items they left out.
    • Let them know that you are willing to file a lawsuit, if necessary, to recover the full amount you are owed. (And discuss doing so with an attorney.)
    • Don't be afraid to say no if the other side's offer is not reasonable.
    6. Confirm your settlement in writing. Once you have come to an agreement on the terms of the settlement, send the insurance adjuster/opposing party a confirming letter outlining the terms of the settlement. If you are asked to sign a release and/or settlement agreement, you should have an attorney review it before signing.

You can reach an attorney at Theta Law Firm by calling us or sending us an email at Theta Law Firm can represent clients all across the State of California, including in any of the following counties: Alameda | Alpine | Amador | Butte | Calaveras | Colusa | Contra Costa | Del Norte | El Dorado | Fresno | Glenn | Humboldt | Imperial | Inyo | Kern | Kings | Lake | Lassen | Los Angeles | Madera | Marin | Mariposa | Mendocino | Merced | Modoc | Mono | Monterey | Napa | Nevada | Orange | Placer | Plumas | Riverside | Sacramento | San Benito | San Bernardino | San Diego | San Francisco | San Joaquin | San Luis Obispo | San Mateo | Santa Barbara | Santa Clara | Santa Cruz | Shasta | Sierra | Siskiyou | Solano | Sonoma | Stanislaus | Sutter | Tehama | Trinity | Tulare | Tuolumne | Ventura | Yolo | Yuba