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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
What is the Purpose of the Initial Client Interview?
At Texas Lawyers Group, our car accident attorneys know the most effective ways to handle any personal injury case caused by an automobile accident. We treat every initial consultation as a fact and evidence gathering process where we work with you to find all of the important details in your case to aid us in the investigation and claims process.
What is a Pre-suit Demand Letter?
In automobile and other vehicle accident cases, it is common practice to send an offer to settle prior to filing a lawsuit. This is called a demand letter, which is sent directly to the at-fault party’s liability insurance company or to our own client’s uninsured motorist company if applicable.
A typical presuit demand letter or offer to settle will outline the liability and damages in the case. The letter will also inform the insurance carrier of all of the reasons why it would be better to resolve the claim as soon as possible without the need for formal litigation. Typically, evidence in the form of exhibits are included that allow an insurer to assess its exposure and that of its insured. They most often include the accident report, vehicle and property repair or replacement estimates, medical records and medical bills, as well as lien notices, photographs of the damaged vehicles, client’s injuries, witness statements, letters or payroll records from employers regarding lost wages, PIP/no-fault payout logs, and physician opinion letters and any other important information.
Many automobile accident cases are settled through the initiation of settlement discussions following a thoroughly prepared demand letter. This is particularly true of smaller personal injury clams where damages were negligible aside from property and perhaps minor injuries. However, if the value of the claim or claims that are included in the offer to settle exceed the value of the available policy limits, the opportunity to resolve the claims is important to the insurance companies and will generally be taken very seriously by the claims adjustor and any other supervisors in charge of losses to the company.
At Texas Lawyers Group, we include all of the specific terms that the insurer must comply with to reach a settlement in the case in all of our demand letters. The terms of each offer depend on the facts and circumstances of each specific claim. However, some typical terms include a deadline for acceptance of the offer. The inclusion of a deadline for acceptance in the demand letter allows us to determine within a definite time frame whether the offer will be accepted or if it will become necessary to file a lawsuit. This will also inform the insurer that our firm is serious about resolving the claim without litigation, but that we also intend to file suit if the matter is not settled within a reasonable time frame so that our clients can recover what they deserve and move on with their lives. We will allow enough time to give the liability carrier a reasonable opportunity to evaluate the demand and get approvals internally to meet the terms of the demand letter. If the carrier has already had sufficient time to investigate the accident before the demand letter is sent, a shorter period may be reasonable.
What is a Release? Should I Sign it?
A claim settlement involves more than just the exchange of documents and money. In exchange for a settlement, the insurer will demand a release of any and all additional claims. This release document usually will identify the amount of consideration being paid to the injured victim in exchange for the release, all parties who are being released, and the claim or claims that are being released (for example, bodily injury or property damage claims).
Any time an insurer provides a release document for execution, we carefully review each term to ensure that it accurately reflects the agreement reached in your case and that our client’s rights are protected at all times. Although often referred to generically as a “release,” the document will sometimes include terms that accomplish more than simply releasing one party from liability to the other. Other terms frequently included in a release document, which may or may not be needed or desirable depending on the facts of the case, are: a clause expressly preserving the claimant’s ability to make other claims for first-party medical benefits or uninsured motorist coverages to prevent a waiver of those benefits. The release may also include a term expressly identifying any claims that are not being released, such as a separate products liability action, or a hold harmless clause in which the releasor promises to hold harmless the releasee from any claims asserted against the releasee arising out of the claim that is the subject of the release. An indemnity clause may also be included, with or without provisions for defense, which may require the releasor to pay for and provide a defense to the releasee if any later claims are brought against the releasee. These are just some of the considerations that need to be addressed in a release letter to ensure that the full intention of the agreement is set forth in the document that will be signed by all parties.
What is Pre-Lawsuit Mediation?
Mediation is a popular form of dispute resolution in the state of Texas. Its use has grown over time as the cost of litigation has risen. Mediation can be an effective prelitigation settlement tool when all parties are clear that mediation may result in the best outcome for all. However, this is relatively rare and once a lawsuit is filed, mediation is usually mandatory. When mediation is court-ordered, any communications made in the context of the mediation are privileged from disclosure and are inadmissible as evidence should the case continue in the event that settlement isn’t possible.
Due to the informal nature of the mediation process, it is a good practice to provide all important information to the mediator prior to the mediation, either through copies of documents or in a summary specifically drafted to outline all relevant issues. Prior to mediation, it is likely that the claims adjuster’s only contact with the case is through the receipt of medical records, deposition summaries, and opinion letters from the defense attorney.
A mediation conference is most effective when all of the involved players are present. If there are multiple insurance policies that involve layers of coverage, a representative for each insurance carrier should be present at the mediation or at least be available by telephone should any potential settlement be presented. In cases with large workers’ compensation liens, attendance by the lien holder can facilitate a more advantageous overall settlement agreement by permitting negotiation of the lien as part of the mediation process.
Call our legal team immediately at (888) 997-2148 to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced brain injury lawyers and it will be your initial step toward receiving fair and just compensation. We take cases on a contingency fee basis and there are no costs unless we win, and the consultation is completely free.