Most personal injury cases never actually make it to a courtroom. Usually, both parties arrive at a negotiated settlement that avoids the need for a court trial. If you choose to settle, you as the plaintiff are agreeing to give up any right to pursue future legal action regarding the matter. In exchange, the defendant or the defendant's insurance company will most likely be paying you an agreed-upon amount of money. In some rare instances, rather than paying money, the defendant in the case will agree to stop carrying out a certain action or activity. Alternatively, the defendant might agree to perform some action as a part of the settlement.
If you're pursuing a personal injury claim and are thinking about settling, you should discuss with your lawyer what you can expect from a settlement.
The Strength of Your Case
Ask the following questions when talking with your lawyer:
What are the usual verdicts and settlement amounts in cases similar to yours?
How good a chance do you have of winning should the case go to trial?
Are there any specific difficulties involved in taking the case to trial?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of any evidence you might have versus the strengths and weaknesses of the other parties evidence?
What are the defendant's monetary assets and resources, as well as the limits on the defendant's insurance policy?
Weighing Costs and Benefits
Find out what percentage of the settlement amount would be applied to your lawyer's fees and any expenses. In a personal injury case, the lawyer is usually paid on a contingency basis. This means that you will not have to pay the lawyer's fee unless you win a settlement or win the case at trial. You may still have to pay for certain other expenses, such as court fees, expert witness fees and so on. Also find out how your state and federal taxes will be affected by either a lump sum settlement or regular settlement payments.
When considering all this, ask yourself how much you're willing to give up in order to arrive at a settlement. For a settlement to happen, you usually have to give up something (even if it's just the right to pursue the matter). Also, are you willing to accept a non-financial remedy?
Who Has More to Lose?
Another point to consider is that the defendant might be very reluctant to let the case go to trial, since a jury award could conceivably be much higher than what they might have to pay in a settlement. This will give your lawyer a bit of leverage during negotiations.
Also, ask yourself whether you are better prepared than the defendant should there be close scrutiny of the trial by the media. It could be that a great deal of information will be revealed that either you or the other party would like to keep private. If this matters to the defendant more than you, it might make the defendant more likely to settle.
To learn more, contact a company like Otorowski Johnston Morrow & Golden P.L.L.C. with any questions you have.