The reality of personal injury cases is that most end up as a settlement out of court. A settlement has a few distinct advantages. First, it helps avoid the process of litigation and associated court costs. Second, it helps control legal fees because it generally has a shorter time frame than a trial. Lastly, it helps victims gain fair compensation for their injuries sooner, particularly at a time when money is scarce from missed work and other expenses.
Settlements can be a valuable aspect of a personal injury case, but it’s important to understand the main types of legal settlement opportunities and how they work. The following represent the most common – and most effective – types of settlements and what to expect from each process.
Direct Settlement With the Insurance Company
It’s often advantageous for a plaintiff to work directly with an insurance company to gain a swift and fair resolution to a case, without the need for filing a personal injury suit in the first place. However, this process requires the help of a San Francisco personal injury attorney. This route often requires direct negotiation with an insurance policy claims adjuster, which can be difficult to navigate without prior experience. In instances in which policy limits of the insured defendant are unknown, it can be difficult to evaluate the worth of a claim. For this reason, an attorney may work with an insurance company to provide proof of damages in exchange for policy information.
After Filing the Lawsuit
In some instances, insurance companies may be reticent about offering settlements or refuse to offer what a claim is truly worth. In this case, a personal injury attorney goes about the formal process of filing a lawsuit. From here, he or she will prepare to take the case to trial by ordering depositions and tending to other key aspects of discovery. Another settlement opportunity occurs after filing depositions – specifically, of the defendant, any eyewitnesses, the plaintiff, and the responding police officer. Following these depositions, an attorney may have more formal grounds for evaluating the worth of a claim, and a defense attorney may have more reason to recommend settlement to his or her client.
During Legal Mediation
Both the defense and the plaintiff may be interested in settling before a case goes to trial, but negotiations can and do reach a standstill at times. In these cases, alternative dispute resolution methods can be effective in achieving a fair outcome. Mediation is a process by which both parties show up at a meeting with their respective attorneys. A third neutral party attorney, called the mediator, will attempt to negotiate a fair settlement by serving as a talking piece for both parties. Throughout the session, both parties make concessions and a mediator makes suggestions that lead to a resolution to the case. A mediation session is often one of the last steps to settle a case before it goes to a formal trial.
Keep in mind that mediation may not be successful in a first session. A plaintiff and a defendant may have to meet multiple times before coming to an arrangement that both parties find amenable. Once they reach this agreement, however, the settlement process ends.
If mediation attempts fail, the last option is often to go to trial. In some cases, this may be the only way to get a plaintiff the compensation he or she deserves for injuries, pain, suffering, and other losses. However, many personal attorneys attempt to resolve these issues before going to trial to save on court costs and the lengthy timeline associated with litigation.
It’s essential for plaintiffs to recognize and utilize settlement opportunities whenever possible. By following the advice of their attorneys, plaintiffs can achieve a more favorable and speedy resolution to their case.