A pretrial settlement is when the parties in a lawsuit come to an agreement before trial to work out payment for injuries and damages. Instead of taking the case to court and going through the entire trial process, the parties attempt to negotiate and come to terms on the payment. This can occur out of court, sometimes with a mediator present during negotiations.

Can I Settle a Claim Without Going to Trial After an Auto Accident?

Yes. Most injury cases do not ever reach a civil trial, as most of them are resolved through settlement negotiations. A settlement may take place even prior to the filing of a lawsuit. A private settlement between parties is a favorable way to avoid the costs in time and money associated with an auto accident lawsuit. Settlements provide a discussion arena where the parties of an accident can negotiate with each other and with their respective insurance companies (or with their own insurance companies in some instances).  

What Points Should I Cover in Order to Obtain a Favorable Settlement?

First of all, you should understand the basic aim of a settlement. The purpose of a settlement is to avoid trial. This is done by an agreement that the plaintiff will forgo rights to pursue trial in exchange for a sum of money or performance of an action (such as agreeing to provide a mechanic) by the defendant.   

Thus, it is necessary for both parties to firmly know exactly what they want to obtain before entering into the settlement negotiation. Settlements almost always require a lawyer and/or mediator. Some points go over with your lawyer are:

  • Your chances at trial and whether a lawsuit is really necessary
  • The amount that you think your case is worth in terms of dollar amounts
  • Discuss the minimum amount that you will accept or pay in order to reach a settlement. Do not disclose this information to the other party until necessary
  • Outcomes and settlement amounts from similar previous cases
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the evidence for both the opponent’s case and your own case
  • The amount of insurance coverage and monetary resources available to the opposite party
  • The affect of any settlement payments on related matters such as attorney’s fees and tax consequences
  • If you are the plaintiff in the accident, consider whether remedies other than monetary payment are necessary

How are Settlement Payments Distributed in an Auto Accident Case?

If the monetary amount agreed upon in a settlement is relatively small, the plaintiff may agree to accept the payment in a single lump sum payment. If the agreement stipulates that the defendant perform or cease performing a certain action, a judge may issue an injunction to enforce the defendant’s required response. 

However, if the settlement amount is for a very high monetary amount, then the plaintiff may opt for a structured settlement involving periodic payments, such as every month or yearly. Generally a structured settlement will require that the defendant’s insurance company purchase an annuity from an annuities company, which in turn pays the plaintiff’s settlement amounts. The annuity company will typically charge the defendant a fee or annuity rates in order to make a profit. 

Larger settlement amounts can get financially complicated and may involve several tax consequences for both parties, so be sure to work closely with a lawyer in discussing the method of settlement payments.

What Are the Advantages of a Pre-Trial Settlement?

Settling a lawsuit without going to trial can provide a number of advantages:

  • Less expensive: Going to trial can be expensive for both parties since most attorneys get paid by the hour for going to trial.
  • Less stressful: Even though most trials do not last more than a few days, the process can be stressful for both parties. With a pre-trial settlement, there would be no need for cross-examination, expert witness, etc.
  • Damages are unpredictable: When you go to trial, the jury awards the damages and there is no negotiation option for either party. Sometimes the plaintiff might get awarded a lesser amount at jury trial than what they would have been awarded at a pre-trial settlement.
  • Appeals can take forever: If the defendant decides to appeal the outcome of the case, it may take more than a year for the entire process to be complete.
  • Privacy: Settlements are private while trials are not. Details of a trial are public record.

When Can I Get My Award After a Pre-Trial Settlement?

It depends on when the settlement agreement has been reached. After the pre-trial settlement agreement has been agreed upon, payments are paid out within 20 or 30 days. Usually the settlement agreement states the time frame that the defendant has to pay. The settlement agreement can also include whether the plaintiff can add interest to the original amount owed if the defendant does not pay within the time period stated in the agreement. 

In almost all settlement endeavors you will need a lawyer present to help you negotiate your position. A personal injury lawyer can help you go over the points mentioned above to ensure that you are well-prepared in entering the settlement and conclude with a favorable agreement.   

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me With My Auto Accident Settlement?

In most settlement endeavors, you will need a lawyer present to help you negotiate your position. A personal injury lawyer can help you go over the points mentioned above to ensure that you are well-prepared in entering the settlement and conclude with a favorable agreement.