If you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, you may resolve your claim before going to trial by agreeing to a settlement. Most personal injury lawsuits don’t ever get to a trial because the parties prefer to settle in order to avoid the uncertainty of a trial.
In exchange for agreeing to a settlement, you give up your right to pursue any further claims against that particular defendant. Note, however, that in many cases, you may have claims against multiple defendants and by agreeing to a settlement with one party, you are not necessarily giving up your claims against the others.
Typically, your settlement includes the payment of an amount that you agree upon with the person or entity that caused your injury (or the insurance company). In some cases, the other party may agree to make a series of payments or may pay your medical or other expenses in addition to paying a lump sum or series of payments to you. You may also have your opponent cease something or agree to do something as a condition of your settlement, but this is unusual in the context of personal injury claims.
Make sure you discuss any settlement offers thoroughly with your lawyer(s) and get his or her experienced evaluation of all aspects of the settlement before you ever agree to anything. You want to ensure that you are not giving up a potentially valuable claim for less than you deserve.
Factors you and your attorney(s) need to consider and weigh when deciding whether to accept a settlement offer include the following.
- Actual or potential problems that may affect your ability to successfully try your case in court.
- Adverse media attention for either you or your opponent and how it might affect the outcome of your case.
- Amount of the settlement that will be needed to cover your attorneys’ fees and any expenses incurred.
- Another type of settlement besides a monetary one.
- Concessions you are prepared to make when settling your case instead of proceeding to trial.
- Financial assets of your opponent.
- Flaws in your opponent’s case.
- How long will you have to wait to try your lawsuit let alone receive an award in the event of an appeal.
- Minimum compensation amount you will accept.
- Monetary value of your lawsuit in terms of minimum to maximum amounts that could be awarded to you.
- Partial settlement (settling the straightforward matters initially as you continue to negotiate the more controversial items).
- Private personal details about you that could be exposed during the pretrial process or the trial itself.
- Relative likelihood of winning your lawsuit.
- Resolutions and verdicts in comparable court cases.
- The effect your settlement will have on your federal and state income taxes.
- The expected length of a trial itself and how that will affect you and your day-to-day activities.
- The insurance your opponent has (extent and coverage of the policy).
- The lengths to which your defendant might be willing to go to fight with you during a trial.
- Weak points in your case against your opponent.
- When your case is expected to go to trial.
- Your opposing attorney’s negotiation skills and approach.
If you are thinking about a settlement before your trial, make sure you and your lawyer(s) consider all of these factors to make an informed decision and give you the best outcome for your case.
If you have suffered a personal injury please contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who will explain all your alternatives and will make certain that you settle your personal injury claim in the best way possible.