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. Litigation is a long and expensive process that involves a lot of work, takes a lot of time, and costs a lot of money. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the judge or jury will find in your favor or that the award will be as high as you think it should be.
- 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 require the court’s involvement, it is a quick and straightforward resolution. The parties also know what the outcome will be before they agree to it. The parties can settle at any time and for any amount.
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. Settlements usually end a lawsuit before it begins or before a court judges the issue. As a consequence, settlement negotiations can often save the parties much time and money on litigation costs. If claimants pursue their case and win the judgment, they are awarded pain and suffering damages.
However, settlement offers can sometimes result in less money awarded to the plaintiff. If they feel a settlement offer is sufficient to cover their losses, the plaintiff might not want to go through the ordeal of a full trial.
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. Also, the amount of money awarded in the settlement is up to the parties.
Usually, however, if a trial has already begun and a lawyer represents each side, they will only be able to communicate through their lawyers. As such, any settlement offers, negotiations, and 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?
Settlement offers are not mandatory; neither party must make or accept one. 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?
Settlements are predictable and relatively fast, but you may have to compromise on the amount of your award depending on the strength of your case. A court case may 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.
Everything said in a court is public record. For the judge and jury, you must recall your affairs and the extent of your injuries. Your defense attorney will question the accuracy of your experiences. Negotiating a settlement may be the best course of action if you don’t want public scrutiny of your injuries and personal life.
Legal issues ultimately determine trials. Certain factors, such as emotional stress, will not be considered at a trial.
Should I Go to Trial Instead?
Often, insurance companies will settle suits as soon as possible because they recognize that settling for a lump sum at the onset of a claim may cost them significantly less than defending the claim. When considering settling with an insurance company, be aware that their business requires them to settle for the least amount possible, not necessarily the fairest. It is also not wise to settle right after an accident since you may not know the extent of your losses.
Despite the possibility of losing at trial, there is also the possibility of winning. In that case, the amount awarded at trial may be greater than any settlement you might receive. If you lose the trial, you still have a chance to appeal, which is impossible if you settle.
What Are the Grounds for an Appeal?
In an appeal, a higher court requests that the trial court’s judgment be changed. They do this because of a legal or procedural error. An appeal must be based on legal grounds, not on the facts of the case.
An appeals court, or appellate court, rarely considers the facts of the case. Evidence is not reviewed in its entirety by them.
An appeal may result in the conviction being overturned or dismissed in several ways. Here 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. When reaching a verdict, jurors follow specific instructions strictly. An incorrect trial instruction may also result in a new trial for the defendant;
- 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.
How Does an Appeal Work?
In determining whether to grant the appeal, the appellate court reviews only the record and evidence presented to the court.
Appeals can be granted in whole, in part, or denied completely. The appellate court may dismiss the charges if the appeal is granted. The appellate court may also order a new trial. The defendant may appeal the case to the state’s highest court if the appellate court denies the appeal. The state’s highest court does not have to review an appeal; it is completely discretionary.
Several factors determine how long the appeals process takes. Your lawyer must first fully prepare the record since they are appealing the legal errors made during your original trial. It could take up to four months for this process to be completed. Afterward, the briefing may take four months or longer, and the appeals court may take another six months or longer to decide whether an oral argument will be held.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Settlement Offer?
In any event, dealing with a settlement offer usually requires the assistance of a qualified personal injury attorney. If you need help negotiating a settlement offer, hire an experienced lawyer in your area. In such situations, your attorney can provide you with legal advice. Your lawyer can also represent you in court if you cannot agree on a settlement.