Partial Settlement

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 What Is a Partial Settlement?

A partial settlement in a personal injury lawsuit refers to an arrangement in which the defendant agrees to pay part of the claimed damages to the plaintiff but disputes the remaining part. These types of agreements are commonly used when the defendant acknowledges some responsibility for the incident but not to the full extent as claimed by the plaintiff.

Economic Losses

A partial settlement could be made up of compensatory damages intended to restore the injured party to their position before the injury. Compensatory damages may cover economic losses such as medical bills and loss of income and non-economic losses like pain and suffering.

Here are some examples:

  • Medical bills: These encompass the cost of immediate treatment following an accident and ongoing medical expenses. This can include hospital stays, surgeries, physical therapy, prescription medications, medical devices (like crutches or wheelchairs), and future anticipated healthcare needs related to the injury.
  • Loss of income: If an injury causes you to miss work, you can be compensated for the wages you would have earned during that time. This can also include loss of earning capacity if the injury prevents you from returning to your previous job or affects your ability to earn the same income.
  • Property damage: If personal property, such as a car or a laptop, was damaged due to the incident, the cost to repair or replace it can be included in economic damages.

Non-Economic Losses

Non-economic losses, also known as general damages, refer to non-monetary damages that don’t have a specific cost but represent a significant loss. Here are some examples:

  • Pain and suffering: The physical pain and discomfort you experienced because of the injury. It also covers ongoing chronic pain that you might continue to experience.
  • Emotional distress: After a traumatic event, it’s common to experience emotional or psychological effects such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The impact of these experiences can be included in a claim for non-economic damages.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life: If your injury prevents you from enjoying activities that you used to enjoy – hobbies, recreational activities, exercise, and so forth – you may be compensated for this loss.
  • Loss of consortium: If the injury has negatively impacted your relationship with your spouse or family, you may be able to claim damages for loss of companionship, affection, and sexual relations.

Punitive Damages

However, a partial settlement may not always cover punitive damages. Punitive damages are not meant to compensate the plaintiff but to punish the defendant for egregious or reckless behavior and deter similar future conduct. If a plaintiff believes they have a valid punitive damages claim, they may reject a partial settlement and continue the litigation process to pursue the full amount they believe they’re entitled to.

Here are some examples where a plaintiff might reject a partial settlement in favor of pursuing a punitive damages claim:

Example 1: Drunk Driving Accident

Let’s say a person was severely injured in a car accident caused by a driver who was excessively over the legal blood alcohol limit and had multiple previous convictions for drunk driving. The injured party may have extensive medical bills and loss of income, but they might also believe that the reckless behavior of the drunk driver warrants punitive damages.

If the drunk driver’s insurance company offers a partial settlement that covers only the compensatory damages, the injured party might reject the offer and pursue a lawsuit to claim punitive damages.

Example 2: Corporate Negligence

Consider a case where a company knowingly sold a dangerously defective product, resulting in severe injury to a consumer. The company might offer a partial settlement to cover the victim’s medical expenses and other compensatory damages. However, if the plaintiff believes the company’s reckless disregard for safety warrants punitive damages, they might decline the settlement offer and proceed to court. This can lead to higher compensation for the plaintiff and sends a strong message to the company and other businesses to prioritize consumer safety.

Example 3: Medical Malpractice

Gross medical malpractice, where a healthcare provider shows reckless disregard for a patient’s health—for example, performing surgery while under the influence of drugs or alcohol—the injured patient might reject a partial settlement from the medical provider’s insurance company. They might instead decide to continue with the lawsuit to seek punitive damages, aiming to penalize the healthcare provider and deter similar behavior in the healthcare industry.

Example 4: Landlord Negligence

Imagine a scenario where a landlord knowingly fails to maintain safe conditions in an apartment complex, resulting in a fire where several tenants are severely injured. The landlord’s insurance company might offer a partial settlement that covers the tenants’ immediate medical bills and property damage.

However, if the tenants can prove that the landlord was aware of the dangerous conditions (for example, faulty wiring) and chose not to address them, they may have a strong case for punitive damages. The tenants might reject the partial settlement and file a lawsuit in this case. Pursuing punitive damages would not only potentially result in higher compensation for the tenants but also serve as a deterrent for the landlord and other property owners from neglecting their responsibilities in the future.

In these examples, the plaintiffs may feel that pursuing punitive damages, despite the time, stress, and cost of continued litigation, is worth the potential for higher monetary compensation and the satisfaction of seeing the defendant held accountable for their actions.

The rules and standards for awarding punitive damages vary by jurisdiction, and some places have caps on the amount that can be awarded. Legal counsel should be sought when making these decisions.

When Can a Settlement Be Granted?

Settlements can be granted at any stage of the litigation process, from before a lawsuit is formally filed to the eve of a trial verdict and even after the trial has begun. The timing is usually a strategic decision both parties make based on the strength of the evidence, the potential cost of continuing litigation, and the risks and rewards of going to trial.

Partial settlements are often granted when there is a significant dispute over the value of the damages, especially when it comes to non-economic damages like pain and suffering, which are subjective and harder to quantify. If the defendant acknowledges liability but disagrees with the amount of damages claimed, they may offer a partial settlement to resolve the dispute quickly and cost-effectively.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Partial Settlement?

Absolutely. Navigating a personal injury lawsuit and understanding the complexities of compensatory and punitive damages can be challenging without professional legal help.

If you are involved in a partial settlement agreement, consult an experienced personal injury lawyer. They can provide valuable legal advice, help you understand your rights and options, and negotiate on your behalf to ensure you receive fair and just compensation.

LegalMatch is a platform that can connect you with a local personal injury attorney who handles partial settlement agreements. We have a comprehensive directory of lawyers who can help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case and guide you through the settlement negotiation process. Simply submit your case online, and LegalMatch will help you find the right lawyer to meet your needs.


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