Civil litigation can be extremely expensive, time-intensive, and emotionally exhausting. It may be advantageous for you to negotiate a settlement with the opposing party in order to save on court costs, attorneys’ fees, and time. In addition, if you believe you have a relatively weak case, it might also be your best method of handling the case.
Settlement negotiations occur during mediation. Plaintiffs, defendants, and their attorneys gather outside of the courtroom to talk through the issues and try to agree on a monetary value. If the parties agree to a settlement negotiation, the parties will sign the agreement, and it will act like a contract. The parties will then file the settlement agreement with the court, and the case will be closed. The parties will not proceed to trial.
Here are some tips to help you prepare for a successful settlement negotiation:
- Conduct a thorough investigation. This means you should still do the full discovery process as if you are planning to proceed to trial. This will give you ammunition in the negotiation. Hunt down witnesses, depose them or have them draft affidavits, pore through documents to find good evidence, and consult with expert witnesses on their opinions of the evidence.
- Know your case. Know everything about the case law, statute, facts of the case, evidence, and witness testimony. This will make you appear extremely prepared and may intimidate the other side.
- Craft a powerful story. At every trial, attorneys try to weave powerful and convincing stories during opening statements in order to shape the jury’s mind about what happened before they even hear any evidence. You will want to do the same at the negotiation in order to try to convince the opposing party that your story is the right version of what happened.
- Know your goals and your lower limits. In order to negotiate settlement figures, you need to know the lowest you are willing to accept, as well as your goal amount. Your bare minimum is usually equal to your costs, such as your attorneys’ fees and medical expenses. Your goal amount will include loss of quality of life, emotional distress, lost wages, and more.
- Anticipate the other side’s arguments and prepare counter-arguments. You don’t know what exactly will happen in the negotiation room, but you want to be prepared for anything. Come up with various strategies for different situations. This will enable you to argue your way to a successful settlement agreement.
Your opposing party will have an attorney present who will handle the entirety of settlement negotiations for them during mediation. This attorney will be experienced and well-versed in negotiation tactics. You also need an experienced and skilled personal injury attorney to negotiate on your behalf. An accomplished personal injury attorney will have years of experience with mediation and settlement negotiations and can help you strategize and prepare.