If you have been injured in a car accident as a result of someone else’s negligence, there are two ways to receive compensation for that injury. You can either settle the case out of court or obtain a judgment from the court. Although a jury verdict in a civil lawsuit would likely result in a larger recovery, jury verdicts are never guaranteed. Indeed, most car accident cases settle before trial and our Joplin car accident lawyer can help you make that decision.
When does settlement typically occur?
Generally speaking, settlement will occur when either the insurance carrier or the defendant makes an offer of payment before liability has been proven. The offer of settlement can occur before the lawsuit is filed. It can also be made 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. If you have questions about whether to settle, talk to our Joplin car accident lawyer.
Many defendants want to keep the claim confidential
Keeping a case out of the public eye can be especially important if an employer is involved who will have a reputation to protect. For example, if the at-fault driver was driving a company vehicle belonging to his employer at the time, 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. Our Joplin car accident lawyer can review that agreement to make sure your rights are protected.
What happens once a settlement is reached?
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 car accident. 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 to either not sue that defendant for the car accident, or to dismiss any lawsuit that is already pending regarding the car accident.
Settling with an insurance company
The majority of personal injury cases involve some form 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.
Why 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. Discuss your case with our Joplin car accident lawyer.
When should you accept a smaller settlement?
Of course, the goal do 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, you might not be able to collect.
If you have questions regarding car accidents 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) 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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