Personal Injury Settlements

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What is a Personal Injury Settlement?

A Personal Injury Settlement is where the parties to a lawsuit reach a resolution independently, outside of the normal mechanisms of the civil court system.  In a personal injury settlement, the parties reach an agreement regarding the losses that the injured party suffered.  In most cases this results in the liable party making monetary payments to the injured party.

In general, the main point of a settlement is for both parties to avoid the loss of time and resources associated with a full-blown trial.  Also, settlement is simpler in cases that are relatively straightforward (for example, if one party is clearly at fault and is willing to reimburse the plaintiff for their losses).

Personal injury settlements are common in cases involving automobile accidents, medical malpractice, and slip and fall injuries.

How Do Personal Injury Settlements Work?

A personal injury settlement can either occur before trial begins, or early on after trial has just begun.  In any case, the settlement process usually begins when one party makes a “settlement offer” to the other, meaning that they indicate their desire to resolve the dispute and to avoid trial.  If the other party accepts, the parties can schedule a “settlement conference”, during which they will go over the details of the settlement agreement.

Once the parties are satisfied with their settlement, they will usually sign a personal injury settlement statement.  This is a written document recording the settlement terms and indicating that both parties agree to the terms.  The settlement statement basically operates like a contract between the two parties.

The parties may then choose to submit the settlement statement to a judge, who can issue a court order to make the settlement enforceable under law.  This will help to prevent future disputes over the personal injury claim (for example, if the liable party refuses to pay, or if the injured party later asks for more than the settlement amount). 

Finally, it is common for one or both parties to sign a clause requiring them to keep the settlement confidential.  This is done for a number of reasons, such as a business seeking to keep its business reputation intact.  If such a clause is signed, the parties usually can’t disclose the subject matter of the settlement without the other’s permission. 

What Types of Losses are Covered in a Personal Injury Settlement?

One of the advantages of settlement is that the parties are free to reach their own terms of settlement.  This means that each personal injury settlement will be different depending on the needs and capabilities of each individual party.  In general, a typical personal injury settlement will cover losses similarly to a damages award in a lawsuit.  These can cover:

One disadvantage of personal injury settlements is that punitive damages may not be available like they might be during a formal lawsuit.  This is because it can be difficult to calculate punitive damages, and it may be difficult to even agree upon a punitive damages-type award.  If the injured party believes they are entitled to punitive damages (for example, the liable party acted maliciously or recklessly), they may need put aside a settlement offer and proceed with trial.

In general, there are no minimum or maximum limits on settlement amounts- it’s basically up to the parties to agree upon the settlement amount.  This will of course involve both negotiation as well as cooperation between the parties. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Personal Injury Settlement?

Personal injury settlements usually require the assistance of a lawyer.  This is because much negotiation goes on during the conferences, and an attorney may be needed for advice and guidance.  Also, even though the settlement occurs out of court, there will still be much interaction with the court system.  A qualified personal injury lawyer in your area can help you obtain the proper settlement amount.

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Last Modified: 03-06-2012 04:25 PM PST

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