There are two main ways in which a personal injury lawsuit will be resolved. The first is through a jury verdict after a trial. The second is through a settlement agreement. A settlement will always result in financial compensation for the plaintiff, since the plaintiff agrees to drop the lawsuit in exchange for a sum of money. A favorable jury verdict can result in compensation for the plaintiff; however, the jury could decide to rule against the plaintiff. The risk of taking a case to trial is one reason why some plaintiffs prefer to explore the civil lawsuit settlement process. After reviewing your case, your personal injury lawyer can help you determine the merits of taking the lawsuit to trial versus negotiating a settlement deal.
The settlement process
The two sides in a civil court case may engage in settlement negotiations at any point after the complaint is filed. To start, the personal injury lawyer will determine approximately how much the case might be worth. This is typically expressed in a range, such as $100,000 to $150,000 or $25,000 to $50,000. The plaintiff’s counsel will try to negotiate for a settlement offer within this range.
On the other side of the table, the counsel for the defense will estimate what a jury award might look like in the event the case goes to trial and the defense loses. The defense will try to negotiate a settlement deal that is below that dollar amount.
One of the lawyers will then start the negotiation process by making an offer. The other side will likely present a counter-offer. There may be some additional back-and-forth offers as the two sides try to come to an agreement. When the personal injury lawyer has the best possible offer on the table, it’s time for the plaintiff to decide whether to accept the offer or take the case to trial. The lawyer can provide guidance to the plaintiff regarding the likelihood of a favorable jury verdict and a jury award larger than the settlement; however, it’s ultimately up to the plaintiff to decide.
If the plaintiff decides to accept the settlement offer, the paperwork will be finalized and filed with the court. Then, all the plaintiff needs to do is wait for the payment to arrive.
Determining an ideal settlement range
“How much is my case worth?” is often the first question that personal injury victims ask their lawyers, with good reason. Plaintiffs often face exorbitant medical bills and it’s a priority to figure out how to pay them. It’s also important to estimate the value of a case because this dollar range affects the settlement negotiations. There are a number of factors that a personal injury lawyer will evaluate before pinpointing a likely payment range. They include the following:
- The extent of the property damage (e.g. was the car declared a total loss?)
- The severity of the injuries (e.g. did the plaintiff need to undergo surgery or otherwise extensive and ongoing medical treatments?)
- The degree of disfigurement (e.g. facial burns or lacerations expected to leave permanent scars)
- The presence of injuries expected to cause permanent disability
- The length of the recovery time
- The need for hospitalization, medications, and supportive therapies such as physical therapy
The more extensive and severe a person’s injuries are, the higher the settlement amount is likely to be.
How long a settlement negotiation may take
Personal injury plaintiffs often face financial pressure. After dealing with injuries, they have medical bills and related expenses, and they’ve likely spent some time out of work. However, getting a favorable settlement deal can take some time.
The negotiation itself may take a few weeks to a few months. Complex cases tend to take longer, while straightforward cases take less time. Once the settlement agreement is finalized, it can take upwards of a month to receive the check.
The importance of hiring an experienced negotiator
Your personal injury settlement is largely dependent on the facts of the case, the evidence, and the skill of the negotiator. It’s imperative that you hire a personal injury lawyer who will provide vigorous legal advocacy both inside and outside the courtroom. The legal team at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. is known for securing maximum compensation on behalf of our clients. We can negotiate a fair and just settlement arrangement that enables you to move forward with your life in the wake of a devastating accident. Call us in New York or New Jersey to request your complimentary case review with a skilled personal injury lawyer.