There is no doubt that you have sustained a personal injury due to the negligence or actions of another party. What remains to be decided is whether you are willing to settle with that responsible party or pursue the matter in court. While you do have the option of making a decision on your own, seeking advise from a personal injury lawyer is your best bet. Here are some of the points that need to be considered carefully before making a decision.
Is Settling Even an Option?
It’s true that settling a personal injury suit is not unusual. Responsible parties are often open to this solution because they want to avoid the expense of going to court. Their desire to settle is not based just on wanting to avoid court costs and more legal fees. There is also the possibility that the court will find in favor of the plaintiff and the verdict will be a significantly larger award.
Others may feel they have a better chance of winning if they take the matter to court. When the responsible party believes it is possible to refute the claims of the injured party, they are highly unlikely to enter into settlement negotiations. In this scenario, settling is not even an option.
Being Open to Receiving a Settlement
Assuming the responsible party is willing to enter settlement negotiations, it never hurts to find out what they are offering. At this juncture, the injured party would do well to have an attorney on hand. That’s because what appears to be an excellent offer may not be so great after all.
Keep in mind that the responsible party and the insurance provider that ultimately pays the settlement has a vested interest in keeping the amount as low as possible. While the initial offer will be presented as being a generous one, it pays to step back and consider it from a more objective angle. That’s where the support of an attorney will serve you well.
Considering the Initial Settlement Offer
Your attorney is in a position to compare that offer with the direct and indirect expenses you’ve incurred as the result of the injury. How much income did you lose due to the inability to work? Will you need ongoing treatment? What will it do in terms of covering the money you’ve paid out of pocket for medical treatments not covered by your insurance? Will there be enough money to repay your insurance provider if a settlement is extended? This is important, because your insurance provider could place a lien on the settlement in an effort to recoup their losses.
With the aid of legal counsel, it’s possible to step away from the settlement offer for a moment and look closely at what the injury is costing you. In some cases, you may find that the offer is sufficient to cover all of your expenses, including the entire medical cost up to this point. Even so, it will not provide any help with future expenses related to further treatment or therapy. If that’s the case, your attorney will counter with an offer to settle that does take into account those future expenses.
Taking the Matter to Court
One of two things will happen as the settlement negotiations continue. The two parties will come to an arrangement that both find reasonable or the attempt to reach a settlement will come to an end. When the latter outcome occurs, that means it’s time to prepare for court.
Understand that you and your attorney will invest a great deal of time in preparing for the actual court case. Depending on the circumstances, it is possible for the injured party to drag out the case for anywhere from a few weeks to several years. While the odds of receiving a larger award by taking the matter to court are quite good, can you afford to wait several years before the money is in your hands? Are you prepared mentally and physically to put in the effort needed to pursue what you hope will be a reasonable judgment in your favor?
Remember there will be expenses along the way. Even if your attorney is working on a contingency basis, there is the need to render payment once you win the suit. After the attorney and your insurance company are paid, will the remaining about be enough to cover your out of pocket medical expenses? Will it also replace the income that you lost because of the accident?
These are questions you must answer for yourself before proceeding with a court case. Think about them carefully and don’t make a decision in haste. Remember it’s not just about the money. Ultimately, it’s about doing what’s best for you emotionally as well as financially.
The bottom line is that the decision of whether to sue or settle is up to you. What works best in your situation may be completely different from that of another person. Since the process of negotiating a settlement or even understanding whether the offer on the table is a good one is not always easy, you need legal counsel by your side. Discuss all your options with an attorney before deciding how to proceed. In the long run, you have a better chance of receiving what you need to recover from the injury and get on with the rest of your life.