What is a Personal Injury Settlement?

The majority of injury cases don't actually end up in a courtroom. The disputes are often resolved in a pre-litigation stage where parties negotiate and settle their disputes. A settlement may be reached either before you begin a lawsuit or while the suit is pending. In many cases, personal injury settlement can be a preferred method of resolving a dispute as it saves your time and energy during a time of physical pain. To maximize the benefits of this out-of-court method of dispute resolution, here's what you should know before you initiate the process:

Personal Injury Litigations 

Among different kinds of personal injury actions, personal injury claim based on wrongdoer’s negligence is probably the most common. The wrongdoer may have recklessly driven a vehicle resulting in injuries or he/she may have carelessly set a campfire that went out of control and burned your residence. Regardless of the scenario, a litigation starts with your filing a complaint at a court. Your complaint will usually contain a statement of relevant facts and your legal theories. A properly filed complaint will require a wrongdoer to respond to the complaint within the time set by law. After the court sets the schedule as to how the case will proceed, the next step is the discovery phase. This typically involves requesting and obtaining records from the other party as well as disclosing your records to them. There may be interrogatories, depositions of witnesses, and/or request for admissions. If you have limited experience in judicial proceedings, the complexity of the court process and the litigation expenses involved alone may be enough to drain you mentally and financially. These are primary reasons why a majority of legal claims arising from personal injury do not go to trial.  

Fortunately, there are many alternative dispute resolutions available to the parties outside of an actual trial. One way is to arbitrate. Arbitration is where both parties present their evidence in front of a neutral arbitrator selected by the court or by the parties, and the arbitrator renders a final decision. In the event both parties agree to the decision, it will be binding upon them. Another option is mediation. Mediation is similar to arbitration, but is more informal. A neutral mediator will make a recommendation regarding the settlement amount, which either party is free to accept or reject. Both methods are there to encourage settlement between the parties.  

While these avenues are available for the parties, it may be wiser for them to reach a settlement before initiating a lawsuit. Without having to spend a large amount of money on legal fees, a pre-litigation settlement can be a very effective approach as long as the final settlement value properly reflects the amount of damages, medical costs and physical suffering sustained.  

Some Tips for Settlement 

The time it takes to settle a personal injury case depends on the unique facts and nature of each case. It may also depend on the amount of money you expect to get from the settlement. For instance, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to come up with an offer that you may feel is alarmingly low. Should you decide to accept such an offer, the entire process of the settlement should not take a very long time. It can probably be completed within several weeks. While it is true that settling a case out-of-court can save a good amount of time and energy, you do not want to walk away with an amount that is substantially lower than what you deem worthy.  

In order to obtain satisfactory compensation, you need preliminary investigations to assess the merits of your case. This often includes obtaining your medical records and bills. Thus, it’s probably in your best interest to wait until your medical treatment is completed. The investigations may also involve collecting statements by the witnesses to your case or any physical evidence that might support your claims. Without such records, insurance companies probably won’t consider raising the amount of their initial offer. Therefore, solid preparation of the records supporting your case is key to persuading the insurance companies to re-evaluate the worth of your case and propose a higher offer.  It’s also wise to hire an experienced attorney to skillfully present the evidence and negotiate with the insurance companies to achieve the desired settlement.  

If you have questions about which avenue to pursue in your own personal injury case, contact our personal injury lawyers today.  


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