Should I Take an Out of Court Settlement for Personal Injury Claim?
Sustaining an injury due to someone’s negligence or disorderly behavior can result in financial losses, pain and suffering, and anger. If your injury has adversely affected your quality of life, you deserve compensation. Is it better to fight for what’s fair by going to trial, or reach a settlement outside of court?
If you go to trial you may receive more compensation than your settlement offer. However, getting to trial can take many years and there’s no guarantee what the final outcome will be.
If you accept an out of course settlement personal injury, you can start getting on with your life again in a matter of months with a potentially significant sum of cash, although insurance companies may try to devalue your claim or resolve the claim for far less than it’s worth. Accepting a settlement also means that the defendant never technically has to admit to being at-fault.
Related resources: 5 Tactics CA Car Insurance Companies Use to Trick Car Accident Victims
Should you settle your personal injury claim or go to trial? Let’s take a closer look at both options.
What Is a Settlement?
A settlement is the resolution of a lawsuit before it goes to court. You can reach it at any stage of the litigation process. Your personal injury lawyer will usually submit a demand letter containing details of the claim and supporting evidence to the defendant’s lawyer or insurance company. After receiving the counteroffer, your lawyer will begin negotiations.
When all parties reach an agreement, you’ll sign a formal settlement document with a release of liability. Once you sign a release, you can never try to claim monetary damages against the at-fault party again.
Going to Trial or Accepting an Out of Court Settlement for Personal Injury
If a personal injury claim goes to trial, a jury or judge decides whether the defendant is at fault and what amount of damages you are entitled to. The process involves assembling a jury, delivering opening statements, cross-examining witnesses, and providing closing arguments. The jury then has time to deliberate the case to reach a verdict.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Settlements
Settlements take less time than trials. On average, it takes between three and six months to finalize a settlement; it can take years to get to trial. You’re also free to reject, renegotiate, or accept your settlement offer.
Compared to trials, settlement negotiations are cheaper, more efficient, and less stressful. However, you might end up with less compensation if you choose to settle rather than go to trial. Both settlements and jury trials are final, except for the occasional appeal after a jury verdict.
Related resources: $100,000 Settlement for Pain and Suffering from a Car Crash
Pros and Cons of Going to Trial vs. Taking an Out of Court Settlement Personal Injury Option
You could very well be awarded more compensation by going to court instead of accepting a settlement. Insurance companies often try to minimize damage associated with pain and suffering during a jury trial. However, a jury is free to analyze the case for itself and they can award any amount that they deem fair and reasonable. If your attorney is a talented trial attorney and your injuries are serious and lasting, a jury may award you far more damages than you would otherwise receive in a settlement. Moreover, if the insurance company gave you an unreasonably low offer during settlement negotiations and you obtain a much larger jury verdict, the defendant would have to pay fees and costs of the lawsuit (which can total in the tens of thousands on top of your damages).
Some individuals feel a greater sense of justice when they go to court rather than settling, as a jury can potentially find the defendant at fault. If you settle, the defendant doesn’t need to own up to wrongdoing.
How Long Do Personal Injury Settlements Take?
The time it takes to obtain a personal injury settlement depends on various factors related to your case. The process itself can last anywhere between a few months and a couple of years. Also, settlement talks could be quick or protracted, depending on the facts of your specific case.
You should never assume or underestimate how much time it’ll take to negotiate a personal injury settlement. Every case is different, and you never really know what to expect. Keep in mind that the severity of your injuries could factor into the time it takes to resolve everything. The number of parties involved in the accident can also impact the process.
If you want to obtain a settlement expeditiously, the best thing you can do is hire an attorney. They won’t waste your time – their job is to protect your rights and represent your case with the utmost professionalism. They ensure that you can recover the damages sooner rather than later.
How Much Should I Ask for in a Personal Injury Settlement?
Regardless of whether you take advantage of an out of court settlement personal injury offer or a trial, the compensation you receive depends on specific factors regarding your case. The payout amounts you recover can also vary significantly. Minor personal injury claims can range anywhere from the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Substantial personal injury claims, however, are worth much more money – these are often six or seven-figure settlements or higher.
Before settlement negotiations take place, you need to calculate the value of your claim. Hiring an attorney is the most precise way to determine what you’re owed. They know precisely how to evaluate the damages you are entitled to.
How Does Emotional Distress Factor Into a Personal Injury Settlement?
“Emotional distress” refers to the non-economic damages you suffer from an accident. It deals with the psychological trauma you suffer. Emotional distress can vary by case – the nature of your mental suffering affects the compensation you can recover.
You’re now probably wondering about the symptoms of emotional distress. Many secondary effects can occur due to the psychological harm of an accident, which include the following:
- Sleep loss
- Anxiety and depression
- PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)
Make sure that you document any emotional distress you experience from an accident. Tell your doctor and attorney about what you’re going through and how it affects your everyday life. This can strengthen your claim and maximize the amount of money you recover via personal injury settlement.
What Damages Should Be Included in a Personal Injury Settlement?
Damages in personal injury settlements typically fall under two categories: economic and non-economic damages. What’s the difference between the two? Economic damages are financial losses you can quantify, whereas non-economic damages are non-monetary losses based on pain and suffering.
Examples of Economic Damages:
- Past and future medical expenses (e.g., hospital bills, rehabilitation services)
- Loss of income and benefits
- Damage to private property
- Other out-of-pocket expenses (e.g., household services, home modifications)
Examples of Non-Economic Damages:
- Pain and discomfort
- Diminished quality of life
- Psychological suffering and trauma
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Disabilities or impairments
Keep in mind that you can also seek punitive damages against the at-fault party if their conduct was intentional or extreme. Punitive damages are meant to punish someone and deter them from future behavior that puts other people at risk. Punitive damages are more rare in personal injury cases, but you should consult with an experienced attorney to make sure you don’t miss out on these types of damages if they apply to your case.
Should I Go to Court or Settle? The Verdict
Whether you should settle or go to trial for your personal injury claim should depend on your unique case. Generally, if your lawyer can negotiate fair terms without going to court, you should settle the case as it avoids long delays and costs. However, if you have a strong case and the defendant refuses to pay what you deserve, going to trial might be your best and only option.
At HHJ Trial Attorneys, our team of highly experienced, award-winning lawyers specialize in all forms of personal injury claims. We’ve helped recover millions of dollars for cases involving car accidents, motorcycle accidents, sexual assaults, and more.
If you can’t decide whether to take your personal injury claim to court, contact us for honest advice.
Testimonial from Micah, a personal injury Victim
It’s difficult to find how to describe how appreciative and grateful I am to Michael Hernandez and the HHJ team. I didn’t have a million dollar case but they treated it as if it was. What I am most blown away about is the follow up, communication, and especially the results Michael delivered. I truly didn’t have a clue of how long my issue would take to resolve, especially with the courts opening and closing over the last year. Lightning speed in the legal world in my opinion. Even when I had lost the thought of the issue in my mind, boom, Michael calls with an update. Another couple weeks, another update, another, another, and boom! The long awaited results I had hoped for and more. This team is not one bit short of AMAZING. We always hear negative things around the way about lawyers, forget all that. Michael Hernandez and HHJ will make a believer out of you just like the did me. When you need a lawyer, make sure you pick the right one the first time. Once again I’d like to say thank you to Michael Hernandez for all your efforts and communication. I’m beyond happy with the results but I’m even more impressed with how you handled everything before we even got the desired results. Forever grateful to you and HHJ