Being involved in any type of accident can be a difficult experience. The injuries you sustain may have a lasting impact on your body, and your medical bills may quickly become overwhelming. Personal injury settlements may help you out of that tough spot, however.
Learning more about personal injury settlements is crucial if you want fair compensation for any trouble another party causes you. By becoming aware of what you’re entitled to, you can figure out your best course of action moving forward.
Without further ado, let’s find out more about personal injury cases and the matter of settlements.
What Is a Personal Injury Case?
Before we get into the matter of settlements, let’s first take a moment to discuss personal injury cases. These cases can be quite varied.
Someone's dog biting you when you're not on their property can be a personal injury case. Getting injured on the job due to negligence on the part of your employer is another example. You may also sue doctors and/or hospitals that jeopardize your health while you're receiving treatment.
According to the American Bar Association though, the typical personal injury case involves automobile accidents. The law expects drivers to exercise a reasonable amount of care whenever they're on the road. Individuals who fail to that may have a case filed against them.
If you end up injured due to the negligence of a fellow driver, then you likely have a personal injury case on your hands.
Here is when you may have different options related to how you may proceed.
One option for you to consider is filing a case against the party who caused the accident. If you can win that case, you will receive compensation. The compensation may cover your medical expenses and lost wages. You may also receive compensation for the emotional distress and pain you experienced because of the accident.
The people who often choose to go to trial do so because they believe they will receive more compensation that way. They also believe they have a strong chance of winning the case.
You are certainly welcome to pursue a case against the person who caused the accident, but it can be a lengthy ordeal. Trials often don't get underway until after a year after the accident occurred, and in some cases, it may take longer than that.
Considering how much of your time and resources may get tied up into a pursuing trial, it’s no surprise to learn that a lot of people prefer settling out of court.
What Is a Personal Injury Settlement?
Going to trial is not an experience a lot of people are eager to have. Even those who believe they have a legitimate chance to win are not too fond of having their daily lives upended by an active case.
That’s why aiming for a settlement in an injury case has emerged as a viable option.
Instead of going through the trouble of preparing for and participating in a trial, you can handle matters faster by settling out of court.
How the Process of Negotiating for a Settlement Works
Settlement negotiations usually start after the plaintiff files a lawsuit; this serves the defendant notice that they cannot ignore the accident they caused. Once they file the lawsuit, the ball is now in the defendant's court.
Don't expect the defendant to send a settlement offer to you right away. After they file the lawsuit, the defendant and their lawyer will research matters first. Expect them to take a long look at their current predicament to see what their chances of winning a case are.
This is the point of the settlement process where things can hit a snag. The defendant and their counsel may have a different perspective on the case than your side does. Even if they acknowledge that you were not at fault for the accident, they may also disagree with how much compensation you’re seeking.
A disagreement such as that can prolong the proceedings. The defendant's side taking a long time to respond does not necessarily mean they are planning to go to trial.
The defendant may be weighing their options and considering the pros and cons of taking the case to court. It's also possible they are delaying matters because it's one of their negotiating tactics.
The defendant may try to draw things out to make you more amenable to receiving lower compensation. After not hearing anything from the defendant for a while, even a weak offer may start to look good.
Do note that the defendant’s initial offer does not need to be the final one.
If you’re unhappy with the initial offer and want to negotiate further with the defendant, you can push for a conference and settle matters there. Negotiations can also continue between your lawyer and the defendant’s counsel until such time that one side comes up with a settlement figure that both parties find fair.
Settlement negotiations can continue even after a trial starts. You and the other party can keep going with the negotiations as long as you have not gotten a verdict.
The point here is that opting for a settlement can be a lengthy undertaking as well. Still, it beats the year-long wait that you’ll endure if you decide to go to court.
How Much Should You Expect to Receive as a Personal Injury Settlement?
Let’s say that the facts in your case are clear. The other party is at fault for the accident, and they must compensate you.
How much should you expect to receive? Unsurprisingly, there is no set amount that defendants must offer to plaintiffs. $3,000 to $75,000 seems to be the average range for settlement amounts in car accident cases, but that doesn’t mean that your compensation must fall within that range.
To figure out how much compensation you should seek from the defendant, you must first consider certain factors.
The Factors That Affect the Settlement Amount
Your medical bills should be the main consideration when calculating the settlement amount. Take note of how much you've already spent on the injuries you sustained from the accident, and don't forget about additional treatments you may need in the future.
Consulting with a doctor will make it easier for you to work out how much money you should ask from the defendant.
After determining your medical expenses, you can now factor your damaged possessions into the mix.
Look at your vehicle and see how much damage it sustained from the accident. Feel free to have it checked out by an auto repair shop so they can give you a more accurate estimate of what it will cost for repairs.
Aside from the damage to your vehicle, you can also factor your damaged gadgets and clothing into your calculations.
The injuries you sustain from an accident can prevent you from continuing with your daily routine. That could also mean that you lost money because you couldn’t work.
Lost wages should be in the calculations for the settlement amount. Don't only calculate the earnings you would have made from the days you missed work. You can also pursue additional compensation if you can prove that your injuries will prevent you from realizing other future earnings.
Pain, Suffering, and Emotional Distress
Injuries are more than words on a medical report. They have tangible effects on people. Your injuries may cause you severe discomfort.
On top of the physical pain caused by the injuries, you may also experience emotional distress in the aftermath of the incident. You may start to fear going back on the road because you’re unsure if the other drivers will operate their vehicles safely.
It’s tougher to come up with a representative amount that can be deemed as suitable compensation for the pain, suffering, and emotional distress the accident has caused you. Consult with a lawyer first as they can help you with that.
Percentage of Responsibility
Upon completing their investigation, police officers may agree with you and say that the other party is the one responsible for the accident. However, their investigation may also reveal that some carelessness on your part contributed to what happened.
In a scenario like that, you may want to tweak your calculations a bit. If the investigators say that you are 10 percent responsible for the accident, then deduct that from your final calculations. Don't forget to mention this factor when negotiating with the other side, or else they may see you as trying to take advantage of the situation.
Those are the factors that you should account for when trying to pinpoint a specific settlement amount. In cases where you go to trial, the court may also require the defendant to pay punitive damages to correct their negligent behavior, but you don't need to factor that into your calculations. Including that may show the defendant that you’re not willing to compromise.
Now that you have your ideal settlement amount, you can have your lawyer present it to the other party and use that as a negotiating point.
What Happens After a Settlement Is Reached?
Hopefully, you and the defendant will reach an agreement following a long negotiation process. But what happens after you reach that agreement?
The next step will typically involve an exchange of a check for a signed release.
As the plaintiff, they will ask you to sign a release that absolves the other party of any further liability, according to the American Bar Association. Know that you cannot negotiate further or pursue any other legal actions concerning the accident once you sign that release, so make sure that the agreement is to your liking.
After signing the release, the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company will send you a check for the amount you and the other party agreed to. Once the check clears, the courts consider this matter settled.
Also, note that you, as the plaintiff, have the final say when it comes to accepting the settlement or not. Your lawyer can offer you advice, but you will make the final call.
What Happens if No Settlement Is Reached?
If you and the defendant cannot reach a settlement, your next course of action is to move forward with judicial proceedings.
You and the defendant may go to arbitration as a last ditch attempt to finalize a financial agreement.
Going to an arbitrator can be a preferable option because it often provides a quicker resolution to the case. It may also cost less to ask an arbitrator to settle the case as opposed to continuing to court.
Similar to judges, arbitrators will look at the facts of a case and render a decision that he/she deems fair after both sides have had an opportunity to present their arguments.
The arbitrator’s decision can either be binding or non-binding.
If it's binding, then both sides must recognize and accept the final decision made by the arbitrator regardless of what it is. A court may enforce the arbitrator's decision. If the decision is considered non-binding, you and the other party still need to agree to it before you can settle the matter.
Moving forward with a trial is the final way to resolve a case.
Obtaining a settlement amount that you feel is fair can be a real challenge. Those lacking negotiating experience and legal knowledge will be hard-pressed to receive fair compensation. Consult with the Saeedian Law Group to ensure that your case is carefully handled and that you receive the compensation you deserve.