Clients often ask if their case will settle, or will they have to go to trial. The answer to that question is never simple or predictable. Settling personal injury cases depends on so many factors. On the other hand, it is possible for a case to settle at any point during the litigation process. The type of case that is involved can have an impact on the possibility of settlement. Some cases are often more difficult to settle than others. When and how you approach settlement can make a difference.
What does it mean to “settle” a case?
Settlement is when the parties of a lawsuit come to an agreement to resolve their disputes and dismiss their claims against one another. Generally, settlement involves the defendant, or the defendant’s insurance company, paying the plaintiff money in exchange for the plaintiff releasing the defendant from all liability regarding that matter. Cases can be settled virtually at any point. This includes even before actual litigation begins, with the filing of the lawsuit.
Early settlement before filing a lawsuit
In some situations, the changes of settling before even filing the complaint can be good. Attorneys have the same incentive to settle early as the parties do, in many cases. Also, there are some types of cases that are better suited to settle early. Cases where the injuries are resolved quickly or, if there is a permanent injury, it reaches that point sooner, rather than later, are good candidates for early settlement. Auto accident cases (non-catastrophic) and slip and fall cases, are often settled early.
Advantages of settling before the lawsuit is filed
There are many advantages of settling early. First, the cost of litigation can be avoided, which can be a great advantage to both parties. Also, the earlier the case is settled, the less time there is for any weaknesses in your case will be discovered and considered by the other side. Logically, the stronger your case appears, the more likely the defendant will feel the need to settle. If the defendant has the chance to find flaws in your case, the desire to settle may fade. Once the discovery phase of litigation gets underway, the chances of settlement change based on the strength of each party’s case.
Something else to consider is the incentive a defense attorney may have to prolong the case, by avoiding settlement. Unlike plaintiff attorneys, defense attorneys are paid by the hour. As such, they may have an inherent incentive to delay the case, so their fees can be increased.
When is early settlement not a good idea?
There are several situations where it may be better to wait until the case has been litigated before considering settlement. The most important reason to wait, is when your injuries have not yet been resolved. In other words, if you are still receiving treatment for your injuries, and it is anticipated that you will need further treatment, settlement might not be a good idea.
In more complex cases, where liability issues and damages need to be sorted out through discovery, settlement is not often possible until these issues are delved into more formally, through the litigation process.
If you have questions regarding settlement, or any other personal injury issues, call the Cottrell Law Office 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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