In a personal injury claim, a settlement conference is a formal meeting between the parties in a lawsuit in which they attempt to resolve their legal dispute without continuing trial. The parties will generally attempt to address the plaintiff’s losses, usually agreeing upon a fixed amount that the defendant will be paying the plaintiff. In some cases, the parties may agree on other means of compensation or other remedies such as an injunction.
Settlements often allow the parties to avoid additional costs and time constraints that are associated with a full trial. However, the parties definitely need to be able to cooperate with one another and come to an agreement in order for settlements conferences to be productive.
In a settlement conference, the parties typically go over the details of the settlement terms. These may include:
- The total amount that the defendant owes the plaintiff (there may often be differences between the initial settlement offer and the final amount after negotiations)
- Whether the settlement will be in lump sum or periodic payments
- How the payments are to be made/method of payment
- Consequences for a breach of the settlement terms
The parties are usually represented by their own lawyers during the process. Once the conference or conferences are concluded, the parties may formalize their conclusions into a settlement agreement. This agreement can be presented to the judge and converted into a court order, which is enforceable under state laws.
Disputes over injury settlements can often arise, since there are many different aspects in a settlement agreement. Most disputes can be resolved during the conference itself as the parties discuss the details. However, if the dispute occurs after the court has already issued a settlement order, it may require additional legal proceedings. An example of this is when the defendant fails to pay the monthly amounts that they are required to pay. Here, the court may need to follow up and issue an injunction requiring the defendant to keep up with payments.
It should be noted that some settlements are entered into voluntarily by the parties with little conflict. However, some settlement conferences are required by the court as a mandatory step in the legal proceedings; this is often common for partial settlements. Mandatory settlements often involve conflicts as the parties may not have anticipated a settlement.
Personal injury settlements are often complex and can vary depending on state laws. For any settlement matters, it is generally recommended that you hire a personal injury lawyer. Your attorney can assist you when it comes to negotiating the settlement amount, and can help determine what your rights or obligations are in terms of the agreement. Also, if you experience any disputes over the settlement terms, your attorney can help with those issues as well.