When you or your loved one has been hurt because of someone else acting negligently, you may be able to receive compensation from the negligent party for those injuries. There are essentially two ways to recover for your injuries – either obtaining an award from a jury following a trial or settling your claim with the guilty party. While jury verdicts following a trial are often much higher, they are never guaranteed to end in your favor. That is one reason why the majority of personal injury cases settle before going to trial with the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
When do Cases Usually Settle?
Typically, a settlement will occur when either the insurance carrier or the defendant makes an offer of payment before liability has been proven. An offer of settlement can be made before the lawsuit is filed or after the lawsuit has been filed, but before the case goes to trial. A settlement can occur virtually at any point before a jury verdict, or before the court enters an order dismissing the case. In some cases, a settlement can be reached while the jury is deliberating. Be sure to seek the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer before you decide to settle to make sure your rights are protected.
Most Businesses Settle in Order to Keep Cases Confidential
Keeping a case out of the public eye can be especially important for larger companies that have a reputation to protect. For example, if a company has produced a defective product that has only injured a few people, the company will likely opt for a quiet out-of-court settlement. That way they can avoid the inevitable publicity of a trial. When a settlement agreement is drafted, the company will insist on terms that include a requirement of confidentiality. For questions on what this means, let our personal injury lawyer explain your duties and rights under a confidentiality agreement.
What Happens After the Parties Reach a Settlement?
If you reach a settlement at any point, part of the terms of the settlement will be that you give up your right to pursue all potential claims against that defendant, arising out of the accident or incident. This is accomplished by signing a full release with regard to liability. For instance, in a car accident case, the auto insurance carrier might offer you $25,000 to settle the case. In order to actually receive that $25,000, you must agree either to refrain from suing that defendant for the car accident or to dismiss any lawsuit that is already pending regarding the car accident.
How is Settling With an Insurance Company Different?
Most personal injury cases involve some type of insurance coverage. In many cases, the insurance company will offer a settlement early on, after the claim has been filed. The purpose of insurance is to pay out in situations where a legal claim could be made. Insurance companies have the money to pay out to resolve claims. In fact, they expect to pay out on many claims. Settling is often preferred when insurance companies are involved because, by settling, they can control the costs, including legal fees, and they don’t have to deal with a jury. It is a good idea to work with a personal injury lawyer when settling with an insurance company.
Why Do Most Personal Injury Cases Settle?
You may be wondering why cases most often settle. Settlement provides defendants a way to control the financial risk they face, and to avoid legal costs which can be substantial. Settlement also allows defendants to keep the legal issues raised in the lawsuit out of the public eye. For businesses, that can be very important. Settlement can also be a way to avoid the time involved in a protracted trial. Trials can last for months, if not years; even longer if there is an appeal. For a plaintiff who has been injured and likely needs income, an early settlement would be very appealing. No matter how good your case may seem, whenever the case is filed in court there is always a chance that the plaintiff can lose the case and receive no compensation at all.
Is There Ever a Time to Accept a Small Settlement?
Of course, the goal of settlement is to negotiate for the best possible amount of compensation. However, there may be times when it makes more sense to accept a settlement that is much less than a potential recovery in court. For example, if your chance of proving the elements of your claim in court seems very uncertain, taking a settlement might be the best strategy. If your injuries or damages are truly insignificant, then a low settlement might actually be appropriate. In some cases, when insurance coverage is involved and the policy limits are low, that may be all that can be recovered. Settlement for policy limits might be your best or only chance of recovery. Even if you were able to win a larger verdict in court, there is always the chance that you won’t be able to collect it.
If you have questions regarding settlements or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.
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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