I usually ask clients to read this when we are ready to make a demand in their personal injury case.
Usually, you will see this when you have finished medical treatment for your personal injuries.
We still have to update your last few medical records, and get your last medical bills. That could take a month or two. Please be patient during this time.
When everything comes in I will call you to discuss it. Until then, please read this over and consider your options for resolving your personal injury case.
This post will outline those options and explains the pros and coms of each.
Demand Letter & Settlement
We usually try to resolve your personal injury case with a negotiated settlement.
Of course, we can only do that IF the insurer is going to be reasonable. If not, we have to litigate. More on that below.
We start by sending a demand letter. This is a letter explaining your personal injuries and the effect on your life. This letter also itemizes your medical bills and other damages.
This letter is really a package of information because it includes your medical records, medical bills, and any other documents supporting your case.
Most importantly, this is where we demand a specific dollar amount to settle your case.
Before I send this letter, you and I will discuss the case, your damages, and what I believe a reasonable value is for your personal injury case.
I will base my assessment on my experience and my knowledge of what usually happens in similar cases. I know what the local Judges and juries will usually do in a case like yours. I know what other attorneys will shoot for in a case like yours. I can tell you what is likely to happen.
While I can give you guidance on what I think your case is worth, you must make the ultimate decision of what you want to get out of your personal injury case.
The goal in all of this is to fairly compensate you for your damages. I can tell you what a case like yours will usually be worth – but you ultimately get to decide when you are satisfied.
In order to decide on the right number that resolves your case, you really need to know what your litigation options are. They are explained below.
We will come up with a reasonable value and we will then send a reasonable demand.Then we wait for a response.
The insurer will review the demand package and call me with an offer. I will call you when that happens and we will negotiate with the insurer.
If we can settle it, then your case will be over and you will go through the post settlement process.
If we cannot settle it, we have to file a lawsuit and engage in litigation. While your case can still be settled before a trial, we often have to at least engage in the litigation process and get close to a trial before the insurer will be reasonable.
Litigation – District Court vs Circuit Court
Maryland has two levels of courts. You have to decide which one to file your case in. The District Court is the “lower” court and cases there are heard by a Judge sitting alone. The Circuit Court is the “higher” court and cases there are usually heard by a jury.
For more on what you can expect during litigation in these courts, click here for our post titled “Roadmap of a Lawsuit.” Here is a thumbnail sketch of the major differences:
- Your case is limited to $30,000. That is the maximum amount for which you can sue in District Court.
- A Judge will decide your case – not a jury. The Judge will have seen a lot of these trials and will handle it much like the other trials he or she usually sees.
- It is a LOT quicker to get your trial. It will take a few months to get a trial date.
- It is a LOT less expensive to go to trial. I can introduce your medical records as evidence without the need to pay your doctor to testify for you.
- Trial is a LOT easier on you and everyone else. A jury trial is a lot more complex.
- Pre-trial discovery is limited. We will exchange paperwork with the other side. Most of that work is done by me. There are no depositions.
- Trial is a LOT shorter. Your trial will take 1-2 hours. Your case will be either on the morning or afternoon docket and you will spend ½ of your day in court.
- You can sue for as much as you want.
- A jury will usually hear your case. Although we can ask for a Judge only trial in Circuit Court, that is rare. A jury is always sort of a wild card. You never know exactly what they are going to do. So these cases come with uncertainty.
- It will take at least a year to get your trial date from the time you file suit.
- Trial will be expensive. We will spend several thousand dollars on deposing your doctor to testify (usually via video) at the trial. While I front these costs, they ultimately come out of your recovery, so remember this is your money.
- A jury trial is complex affair and will be more stressful on you and your witnesses.
- Pre-trial discovery is lengthy and you will be more heavily involved. In addition to the usual written discovery, you will have to sit for a deposition under oath.
- Even the simplest jury trial usually takes 2 days. Some can go 4-5 days or even longer if the issues are complex and there are a lot of witnesses.
The number one concern is the limit on the dollar amount I can ask for. If we are in District Court I cannot ask for more than $30,000.
While District Court is a great way to resolve small and medium size cases, we cannot resolve large cases there. If you have a large case, we are heading to Circuit Court and a likely jury trial.
The problem inevitably arises when your case is worth right around $30,000. Do you limit yourself to $30,000 and take the much easier litigation route? Or do you endure the expense and delay involved in a jury trial to try to get a little bit more?
This is something we can discuss in relation to the facts of your particular case. For right now, I want to get you thinking about these choices so you have a better understanding when we talk.
As always, call me or shoot me an email if you have any questions.
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