In any scenario where you were hurt due to someone else's negligence -- be it a vehicle crash or a premises liability situation there can be multiple entities with which you may need to deal, such as the at-fault party or that entity's liability insurer. Additionally, there are many competing interests you have to balance, such as maximizing your payout versus minimizing the time, expense, and stress expended on getting to that outcome. In all of these circumstances and regardless of whether you're dealing with an insurer or an at-fault party having diligent representation from a knowledgeable Santa Barbara auto accident lawyer can help you ensure you are getting the most out of your case.
One effective means for balancing your interests in a successful way sometimes can be to settle prior to filing your lawsuit. Effective Jan. 1, 2023, the state has updated its statutory law related to these kinds of circumstances where injured people make pre-complaint time-limited demands on insurers.
Section 999 lists several requirements for scenarios where you submit a time-limited demand before you make a demand for arbitration or file a complaint in civil court.
For one thing, you must make your settlement demand in writing and it must explicitly make reference either to "Section 999" or its status as a "time-limited demand."
The Required 'Material Terms' of a Valid 'Time-Limited' Demand
Additionally, this kind of demand must include a certain group of "material terms," such as the deadline (which must be "not fewer than 30 days from date of transmission of the demand, if transmission is by email, facsimile, or certified mail, or not fewer than 33 days, if transmission is by mail,") a "clear and unequivocal offer to settle all claims within policy limits," the date and location of the incident, the claim number (if known,) a list and description of all the known injuries the injured person endured, and "reasonable proof." The statute explains that "reasonable proof" may include, "if applicable, medical records or bills, sufficient to support the claim."
The law also requires insurers to provide the state's Department of Insurance with a designated email address or physical address where it will receive time-limited demands. The department will publish those addresses on its website and the injured person will submit their demand to that address. Alternately, the demand may be sent to the insurance representative assigned to your claim, if you know who that is.
So, what's the benefit of this new law? A key one is that the statute provides a type of "road map" for making a valid demand. The benefit of that, in turn, comes if you make a valid demand and the insurer rejects it anyway. That rejection may open the door to argue in a bad faith litigation case that the rejection was unreasonable, which possibly can allow you to recover a payout from the insurer that exceeds the policy's limits.
As this statutory update illustrates, almost any step in the process of obtaining compensation is filled with details and minute procedural requirements. The importance of these details to the ultimate success of your case can be very high, which is why the right legal counsel is crucial. The experienced Santa Barbara auto accident attorneys at the law firm of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP are here to help, armed with the skills and knowledge necessary to ensure you achieve a successful outcome.
Contact one of our personal injury attorneys in Santa Barbara at 805-617-1365 or through our website to schedule a free case consultation and learn more.
GALINE, FRYE, FITTING & FRANGOS, LLP - SAN MATEO OFFICE
Thank you so much for all of your legal help on my case. I’ve really enjoyed working with you and your professional team including Lisa and Mavis. I also appreciate your efforts in reaching a settlement on my behalf. I will definitely refer my clients and friends to your firm they are in need of legal representation in the future. Regards.- ADRIAN C.