In a personal injury case, a settlement is reached when the parties agree on the amount to be paid for damages. In general, this occurs outside of the court system, usually before or shortly after the start of the trial. Settlement may begin when one party makes a settlement offer to the other side. Generally, this may be done if it is clear that the other party will win or if the parties do not wish to spend a lot of time litigating.
Upon receiving an offer, the other party can accept it, reject it, or negotiate the amount.
Settlement negotiations may require the assistance of a mediator in some cases. Most personal injury cases are settled rather than litigated in full.
A settlement agreement may be formed once the parties begin coming to terms on the various aspects of the settlement amount. The agreement may take form as negotiations proceed and the parties become clear about their wants.
The agreement may cover issues such as:
- Compensation for economic losses
- Payment of various fees associated with the legal process
- Provisions regarding whether litigation will still be an option in the future
- Method, manner, and timing of the payments
- Consequences for breaching the agreement
Once finalized, the settlement agreement will serve as a contract between the parties, securing their interests in the settlement amounts. To make the agreement legally binding, they can present it to a judge.
What Is a Settlement Offer?
In personal injury claims, a settlement offer may be presented from one party to another regarding reimbursement for injuries or losses. A settlement usually ends a lawsuit before it begins or before a court rules on it. Therefore, settlement negotiations can often save the parties time and money on litigation costs. If claimants pursue their case and win the judgment, they are awarded pain and suffering damages.
It is possible, however, that settlement offers can result in less money being awarded to the plaintiff. Some plaintiffs may choose not to go through the ordeal of a full trial if a settlement offer covers their losses.
What Does It Mean to Settle a Case?
You may recover on a personal injury claim by settling with the other parties or by going to court.
- Going to Court: You rely on a judge or jury to interpret the law to resolve who was at fault in your accident and how much should be paid to compensate for your losses. A lawsuit is a long and expensive process that involves a lot of work, takes a lot of time, and costs a lot of money. In addition, there is no guarantee that the judge or jury will find in your favor or that the award will be as high as you expect.
- Settling: When a case settles, both sides agree to a resolution. The plaintiff usually pays a monetary award if the defendant agrees not to pursue the case further. As settling does not involve the court, it is a quick and straightforward process. Additionally, the parties know what the outcome will be before they agree. The parties can settle any amount and any time.
Who Is Allowed to Make a Settlement Offer?
It’s usually up to the parties as to whether or not they want to initiate a settlement. In addition, the amount of money awarded in the settlement is up to the parties.
However, if a trial has already begun and lawyers represent each side, they will usually only be able to communicate through their lawyers. Any settlement offers, negotiations, or acceptances of offers would require the presence of an attorney.
Settlement negotiations that take place before trial cannot also be used as evidence.
What if a Settlement Offer is Rejected?
It is not mandatory for either party to make or accept a settlement offer. The parties must file a civil lawsuit if a settlement offer is rejected. There are often unresolved issues that require the guidance of the court system to be resolved. Personal injury lawsuits typically result in a monetary damages award.
Why Should I Settle My Case?
You may have to compromise on the amount of your award depending on the strength of your case, but settlements are predictable and relatively fast. It is possible for a court case to result in a larger award, but the outcome is not guaranteed, and it may take years to see the money.
Even if you win, the defending party will have the right to appeal, making the case even longer.
A court’s proceedings are public record. Judges and juries must be able to recall your affairs and the extent of your injuries. Your defense attorney will question you about the accuracy of your experiences. In order to avoid public scrutiny of your injuries and personal life, negotiating a settlement may be the best course of action.
Legal issues ultimately determine trials. Trials will not consider certain factors, such as emotional stress.
Should I Go to Trial Instead?
Often, insurance companies will settle claims as soon as possible because they understand that settling for a lump sum may cost them significantly less than defending the claim. Be aware that an insurance company’s business requires them to settle for the least amount possible, not necessarily the most equitable amount. Additionally, you should not settle right after an accident since you may not know the extent of your losses.
There is a possibility of losing at trial, but there is also a possibility of winning. If that is the case, the amount awarded at trial may be greater than any settlement that you may receive. You still have a chance to appeal if you lose the trial, which is impossible if you settle.
What Are Partial Settlements?
Some personal injury claims cannot be settled on all terms. Pre-trial settlements may agree about car damage but may disagree over the plaintiff’s injuries.
In such instances, the parties might form a partial settlement regarding the terms that they do agree on. They may then pass the remaining unresolved issues through litigation to have them decided by the judge. This generally depends on the facts of each case, as well as the decisions of each party.
What Are the Grounds for an Appeal?
An appeal is a request for a change of judgment by the trial court. They do this due to a legal or procedural error. The appeal must be based on legal grounds, not on the facts.
The facts of the case are rarely considered by an appeals court or appellate court. They do not review all evidence in its entirety.
There are several ways in which an appeal may result in the conviction being overturned or dismissed. The following are a few examples:
- Newly Discovered Evidence: An appeal may be granted if the evidence was not reasonably available to the defendant during the trial.
- Improper Instruction: An appeal may be made if it is discovered that the jurors in the case were given improper instructions. Jurors follow specific instructions when reaching a verdict. It is also possible for a defendant to have a new trial if a trial instruction is incorrect;
- Juror Misconduct: Another way the jury influences the right to an appeal includes juror misconduct. Examples of juror misconduct include communicating with a witness, using drugs or alcohol during trial and deliberations, or even performing improper experiments to determine guilt (like in “12 Angry Men”);
- Illegal Evidence: Evidence cannot be used if obtained illegally, like through an invalid search warrant. In a trial, illegally obtained evidence cannot be used by the prosecution;
- Inadequate Representation for the Defendant: This occurs when the defendant’s attorney somehow did a poor job or misrepresented the defendant. Whether the outcome of the trial would have been different had the attorney’s actions, or lack of actions, been taken; or
- Abuse of Discretion: This refers to a judge improperly using their power in either a jury trial or a bench trial. Appeals may be granted if this improper use of power influenced or changed the trial’s outcome.
The conviction will not likely be reversed or dismissed for harmless errors or mistakes that did not affect the trial outcome.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Personal Injury Settlements?
Obtaining a settlement can involve many steps and may sometimes be quite a complex task. You may need to hire a personal injury lawyer if you need assistance with a personal injury settlement.
In addition to guiding you through the process, your attorney can inform you of your options. In addition, your lawyer can represent you at meetings and court hearings.