The vast majority of personal injury claims in the United States are resolved outside the courtroom. Up to 95% of all accident settlement negotiations are settled in out-of-court agreements.
That might seem like a high number until you realize that settlements are often the fastest, easiest, and fairest way to make arrangements that are acceptable to everyone. A settlement agreement could benefit you greatly, as long as it’s handled correctly.
Everything hinges upon the negotiation process. To get the best possible deal from negotiations, you’ll need a qualified personal injury lawyer who has savvy negotiation skills plus the grit to go to bat for you during a personal injury trial, if necessary.
How a Settlement Can Work to Your Benefit
Think of a settlement as a tool you and your lawyer can use to allow both sides to compromise a little, while still walking away with a fair resolution. You might not get the maximum amount you wanted, but you’ll get a far better deal than if you’d handled it alone or if you’d just given up!
In most cases, a settlement can take care of your major expenses related to the accident, your legal fees, and some of the intangible losses you suffered. But the value of your settlement offer depends in part on the negotiation skill of your lawyer and what kinds of losses you can prove through evidence.
Ideally, your settlement will cover:
- Medical bills
- Vehicle repairs
- Long-term health care
- Mental anguish, also known as pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- The financial impact on your family members, especially your dependents
In general, injured people receive higher compensation in pre-trial settlements than is typical for cases that go to trial. Injured people often lose in court – up to 90% of the time, according to government statistics. So as you can see, negotiating a settlement could be your best bet.
Why Settlements Tend to Help Injured People
When both sides are negotiating toward a settlement, both sides are motivated to present options that the other side will consider. Both sides want to avoid the uncertainty of a trial.
This promotes a feeling of fairness. Each side has an opportunity to evaluate the other’s latest offer and decide how to proceed forward from there.
Another reason settlements often benefit injured people is that they usually involve professionals like insurance representatives and lawyers. They have extensive experience and plenty of tools at their disposal to resolve things quickly.
A seasoned accident attorney can put a value on an injury case that’s easily backed up by evidence. This has the effect of limiting the amount of negotiation that needs to happen. The insurance company or other party will see that it’s a reasonable offer.
Settlements Usually Happen Fast and Affordably
A settlement almost always moves faster than a court trial. It’s common for a personal injury case that goes to trial to take many months or even years to be resolved. The defendant’s insurance company is seldom motivated to expedite matters once they get to court.
Although the trial itself might take just a couple of weeks, the other parts beforehand take a very long time: discovery, mediation, scheduling, and more. The process can drag on for what feels like forever.
On the other hand, a pre-trial settlement in an injury accident case can often be successfully negotiated and finalized with the insurer in just a few weeks. Settling your personal injury case out of court is nearly always the fastest way to get the compensation you deserve.
Plus, personal injury attorneys typically only collect a fee if and when you receive financial compensation in the form of an insurance settlement or a court judgment. Although fee structures vary, a common arrangement is for a law firm to collect about a third of a pre-trial insurance settlement.
But the fee is generally closer to 40% when your award is the result of a trial. So if your lawyer can settle your case out of court, you’ll usually keep a larger percentage of your total compensation. Also, a trial comes with expenses, and these will generally be paid out of your award as well.
Of course, your attorney should be ready to go to trial if the insurance company won’t agree to a reasonable settlement. The fees described above are reasonable and typical, but it’s still best to avoid a trial if possible.
At Trial, There’s Always a Risk of Losing
If your personal injury case goes to trial, there is no guarantee that you will win an award at all. And if the jury decides in your favor, your award could still be smaller than the amount you might have arranged in an out-of-court settlement.
Another consideration is your personal privacy. Settlements can be private, while trials are a matter of public record.
All the details of a trial, including any evidence or testimony presented by you, the defendant, your attorneys, or any other witnesses, goes on the record. So does the total amount of compensation that was awarded. Anyone can view it, including your employer, your ex-spouse, your family, your friends, and the general public.
A pre-trial settlement, on the other hand, allows you to keep all of that information private. The party accused of negligence in a settlement will often require a non-disclosure clause to protect themselves from public scrutiny and the injured party can make the same stipulation.
Maximize the Value of an Out-of-Court Settlement
Keep in mind that it’s your right to negotiate for a larger settlement. Until you settle, you always retain the option to file a lawsuit, which can be a great motivator to get someone to settle.
Negotiation is a complex process and there’s an art to it. A good personal injury attorney knows how to demonstrate your need through strong evidence of your need for compensation, which can include:
- Police reports
- Eyewitness accounts
- Doctors’ diagnoses and prognoses
- Medical bills and records
- Financial statements from your lawyer and other sources
- Auto shop repair estimates
- Video footage and photo evidence
You may be entitled to substantially higher compensation than the insurer or other party initially wants to provide. Make sure you negotiate your settlement skillfully with the help of an experienced attorney. At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we offer a free consultation with a caring and qualified attorney who knows how to get the job done right.
We Handle Your Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life
After a personal injury, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers for legal advice. We handle many areas of the law, including many kinds of personal injuries. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering while we handle the legal details.
We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.