Our Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys Explain Some Important Things You Need to Know About the Possibility of Settlement
Once your legal claim is filed in a personal injury or medical malpractice case, you may want to know whether it is possible to settle your case without going to trial. While many cases do settle before trial, the honest answer is, it depends. Here are some basic things that you should know about the possibility of settling your personal injury case before trial.
What Does It Mean When You Settle A Personal Injury Case?
Settlement is a legal agreement made between you and the other party, usually an insurance company, that allows you to resolve the case without going to trial. A case can never be settled unless there is a willingness on both sides to discuss this possibility. Sometimes this willingness is simply not there. This can happen if an insurance company has taken a “no pay” position, meaning that it denies legal responsibility for the claim. An insurance company can argue, for example, that its driver did not cause the accident, or that its doctor did not commit medical malpractice, or that your injury is not a qualifying injury under New York’s Insurance Law. As a result, a case can only settle if an insurance company is willing to concede that a jury could find it responsible for the claim. In addition, the client must also be willing to settle the case. While most clients are open to a fair settlement, there are times when settling a case may be too emotionally difficult for a client.
What Factors Are Important For a Personal Injury Settlement?
When settlement is discussed, there are usually two issues that are raised: liability and damages. An insurance company will only pay a settlement if it concludes that a jury could find it legally responsible for the claim. Sometimes liability is easy. For example, if your vehicle was struck from behind while stopped at a red light, an insurance company will usually admit liability. But, if you were injured in a premises liability accident, an insurance company might challenge liability by arguing for example, that you fell because you were running and not walking down the stairs at the time of the accident. Ultimately, insurance companies will always try to argue that the plaintiff was comparatively negligent for the accident and that any award should be reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault.
The other issue that is discussed during settlement is damages. The question, “how much is my case worth?” – is a fair question but sometimes difficult to answer because the value of a case depends on so many different factors. For example, when negotiating a settlement these are just some of the issues that might be considered:
- Permanency of your injury;
- Affect of the injury on the quality of your life;
- Your need for future medical care;
- The cost of medical and hospital bills, in the past and anticipated in the future;
- Affect of the injury on your ability to work;
- Affect of your injury on your relationship with friends, family and your spouse;
- Affect of the injury on your social and recreational activities;
- The monetary worth of your case at trial vs. the risks associated with trial;
- Insurance policy limits of the defendant and his or her own financial resources;
- Potential difficulties associated with trying your case;
- Whether you have been involved in any prior accidents;
- Whether you have been involved in any subsequent accidents;
- Whether you have received treatment to the same parts of your body before the accident;
- Past settlement and jury verdicts for similar cases;
- Overall chances of winning your case at trial;
- Ranges of value that appellate courts have permitted in similar cases.
Unfortunately, there are no exact formulas to determine the value of a personal injury or medical malpractice case. In fact, even if two people had the exact same injury, the value of their cases could be substantially different depending any one of the factors listed above. As a result, your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company using the most effective arguments in your favor to get the biggest settlement possible under the circumstances of your case. Ultimately, deciding whether or not you should settle your case is a personal decision that you should make with the input of an experienced personal injury attorney that you trust.
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If you have any questions concerning the possibility of settling your case, you can contact our office by email or calling (800) 762-9300. You can also simply fill out one of our case intake forms and we will have one of our attorneys get right back to you.
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