Pre-Litigation Protocols

By Janice Fahy
Pre-litigation protocols help settle claims before trial.

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Pre-litigation is the term used to describe activity that happens regarding a legal claim before a lawsuit is officially filed. Insurance adjusters, litigation attorneys and paralegals often spend a significant amount of time working on a case in the pre-litigation stage in the hopes of settling it fairly without having to file a suit. Several pre-litigation protocols must be followed during this stage of conflict.

Notice

Once individuals decide they have been injured as a result of another party's actions, they should notify the offending party and her insurance company. This occurs the beginning of pre-litigation, long before evidence has been gathered and fully explored. This notice letter is often sent out by lawyers who represent the injured party and usually requests that insurance policy coverage and limits be confirmed. This protocol lets everybody prepare for the upcoming process of investigating the claim.

Investigation

During the investigation stage of pre-litigation, facts and documents are gathered and put together. Law firms and insurance companies will request medical and employment records detailing the injuries and damages experienced by the party making the claim. Witnesses will be interviewed and statements will be taken from everyone involved directly in the incident.

Demand

After investigation of the incident and injuries has taken place, the next pre-litigation protocol includes drafting and sending a demand, usually to the insurance company that covers the person who was at fault in the case. Depending on the complexity of the claim, a demand letter can be a couple of pages describing the incident, injury and damages or a lengthy document that includes medical records, descriptions and expert opinions.

Settlement Negotiations

A demand letter usually sets off a pre-litigation period of settlement negotiations. Many of of these negotiations are informal with attorneys, insurance professionals and clients discussing details of the incident and considering compromises that could help settle a claim prior to the more lengthy and expensive litigation process. More formal ways are available to approach a potential settlement, including mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. If a case is not settled in the pre-litigation stage, the next step is for a formal lawsuit to be filed.

About the Author

Janice Fahy is a freelance writer who is comfortable researching and writing on just about any topic under the sun. With a professional history that includes more than 15 years of writing for newspapers, magazines, law firms and private Web clients, she also writes for Break Studios, eHow and Trails.

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