In the process of dealing with an accident and personal injury, there is the constant requirement to manage your emotions during the settlement process. Perhaps, one of the worst times this arises is in the settlement conference of the pre-trial stage.
The Beginning: How did you find your Brisbane Personal Injury Lawyer?
Before you get to this stage, you need to find a lawyer. Since you live in Brisbane, you Google “Personal Injury Lawyers Brisbane” and find a solicitor that is suited to your claim. From there, all of the initial preparation and lodging is done to start your claim. Time passes and you get to the compulsory settlement conference.
The Compulsory Settlement Conference
Now imagine this. You arrive at settlement conference in your Barrister’s chambers in Brisbane to hopefully resolve your claim. You first meet with your barrister and solicitor to receive advice on how the conference will proceed and what to expect. It seems complicated at first, but slowly you come to realize that this process is not the “end of the line” but rather, a way for both sides to try and save money by resolving the conflict today.
Before the conference, your barrister advises you to keep your responses during these discussions short and sweet. The majority of the negotiating will be done by your lawyers. Yet, anxiety and worry is very common. How will you cope with the claims officer?
When the conference begins, you sit between your lawyers and the claims officer in a small meeting room with several documents all around you. It is hard to believe that contained in these legal documents is the information that will determine whether you can walk away with a settlement and peace of mind, or if you will need to take the next step to prepare for trial.
Submissions are made first on your behalf. Your barrister goes through all of the arguments concerning liability (who was at fault for the accident) and quantum (how much you are entitled to receive). During this time, you remain silent. Everything you have disclosed about your accident, the injuries, the pain and your losses (income, out of pocket expenses, etc.) are summarized in these submissions.
The process can be fairly emotional. Your barrister is trying to convince the claims officer why you are entitled to the amount demanded on your quantum assessment.
The Insurance Company’s Position
The claims officer then proceeds with their own submissions. Thankfully, your lawyers have prepared you for the worst. The claims officer proceeds to highlight the potential weaknesses of your claim, and it is hard to believe how inconsiderate these people may seem.
Despite the obvious pain, fear of the future and need for justice that you are going through, the claims officer explains how your injuries fall on a scale that is far less than what you and your lawyers believe you are assessed. To make matters worse, they say all of these things and then conclude by suggesting a settlement amount that is ridiculously lower than what you had in mind.
Just like that, your life has turned from a tragedy into an auction.
Sometimes, the claims officer asks you a question or two. These questions are not difficult and thankfully you have been prepared in advance by your lawyers. Your barrister fills in all of the extra information and soon, the claims officer is satisfied that negotiations can begin.
The claims officer leaves the room and you are left alone with your lawyers. At this point, your feelings may explode. You rant to your lawyers about how despicable the insurance company is for putting you through this process. Why can’t they just accept a fair amount and let you live your life? Unfortunately, you are now witness to the reality that insurance companies have shareholders to which their best interests lie. You are not a priority. This is why you need lawyers.
Counter-offers are recommended by your barrister and solicitor. You agree to their advice and instruct them to continue the painful practice of going back and forth to negotiate as high a settlement amount as possible…
You start with $300,000 and the claims officer opens with $30,000. You counter with $280,000 and the claims officer replies back with $40,000 and an undertaking to compensate your past expenses for rehabilitation, etc. This can go on for many minutes and time flies.
Finally, there comes a point when the insurance company is no longer willing to pay additional money and they present you with a mandatory final offer (MFO).
Your barrister and solicitor then proceed to guide you on your legal costs and what the realistic prospects of success in court will be.
This is never an easy discussion. You want to continue fighting. You may be still angry and frustrated for suffering the accident to begin with.
But then, your lawyers remind you of the following points you need to figure out for yourself:
What is the cost of your peace of mind? Knowing that the claim is over and you can finally get on with your life.
Are you willing to take on the risk of trial and potentially (even though it is a small chance) lose everything and have to pay the defendant’s costs?
Is proceeding through the trial process and using up more time and money worth putting a minuscule amount in your pocket (maybe an extra $1000-$5,000)?
Can you proceed with your life on the amount being offered now?
You are at that point where you need to decide…should I settle or go to trial?
If you need help to handle this difficult decision, please contact us today.