If the negligent actions of a third-party have caused you injury or damage to your property, there are essentially two ways you can be compensated for that injury. If your personal injury claims can be proven, you can either obtain a judgment from the court by filing a lawsuit, or you can settle the case out of court. Settlement is often a favorable choice, as jury verdicts are not always guaranteed, regardless of the evidence in your case. Your personal injury lawyer can help you settle your claims, but be careful. Some firms follow the principle of reaching a quick settlement in as many cases as they can. That is not always the best resolution for you.
Your case can settle at any time before the claim is resolved
Many clients do not realize that your personal injury lawyer can settle your claims at virtually any time before the court enters a judgment. That means you can actually settle your claims with the insurance carrier representing the defendant before you even file a lawsuit in court. Anytime during litigation the case can be settled. In fact, it is not uncommon for a case to settle while the jury is actually deliberating. Your personal injury lawyer can help you determine when it is best to consider settlement.
What is a “settlement mill?”
While law firms have pretty wide latitude as to how they operate, within the confines of the law, of course, there are some personal injury firms that have developed into what is being referred to as “settlement mills.” The purpose of these firms is to take in as many personal injury cases as possible and reach a quick settlement. The focus is on volume, not value. These types of firms typically spend tons of money advertising so they can gather up as many clients as possible and push for quick settlements. But is that beneficial to the client?
What makes a settlement mill different from other law firms?
Generally, when you think about taking your claims to a personal injury lawyer, your expectation is that he or she will analyze your claim, decide on a litigation plan that is unique to your claim and then do their best to obtain fair compensation for your injuries. If settlement is not the best course of action, your personal injury lawyers should be willing to take the case to trial. However, these, “settlement mills” do not actually represent clients as individuals. Instead, they focus on volume in order to bring in as much money as possible, for the least amount of expense. Standford law professor Nora Engstrom first dubbed the term “settlement mills,” after conducting extensive studies on how these firms operate.
How do settlement mills affect the client?
Based on the professor’s analysis, cases being handled by settlement mill law firms are resolved using a formula, as opposed to consideration of the strengths or weaknesses of the actual case. This most often results in a lower settlement than what the fair value of the claims would be. Unfortunately, in many cases, the stronger the case is, the less the client will actually receive in settlement. What happens is, many cases get clumped together and settled as part of a package deal, so only the weaker claims truly benefit. Ultimately, the ones that profit the most are the lawyers and the insurance companies.
The real purpose of personal injury settlement
A real personal injury lawyer will tell you that, the purpose of settlement is really meant to allow the defendants a way to control the financial risks they face, in part by avoiding much of the legal costs associated with litigating a case in court. Settlement also allows defendants to keep the legal issues raised in the lawsuit confidential. On the other hand, for the plaintiff who has been injured and likely needs income, an early settlement could also be more favorable.
Choosing a personal injury lawyer
Depending on your case and your personal situation, a settlement mill type law firm may be sufficient for you. If you are looking to simply recover your medical expenses and resolve the matter as quickly as possible, then a settlement mill may be the best option. However, you are looking to recover the fair value of your claim regardless of how long it may take, then a traditional personal injury lawyer is what you need.
If you have questions regarding settlements or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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