Practically all successful personal injury claims will conclude in one of two ways: settlement or litigation that ends in a favorable award or jury verdict. Which one of these conclusions is better than the other? As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to settlements and litigation alike.
In this first half of our two-part blog series Settle or Litigate, our attorneys from Habbas & Associates in San Jose will take a closer look at settlements and the unique advantages they can bring to an injury claim.
Settlements Tend to Take Less Time
The first thing you should know about settlements is that most personal injury claims actually end this way. There are two reasons why settlements are much more common than litigated personal injury lawsuits. The first being that many states require plaintiffs and defendants to attempt a settlement in good faith for most cases before a trial will be approved. The second reason is that settlements tend to take much less time and resources when compared to litigation, which is an attractive benefit for insurers and plaintiffs alike.
When a lawsuit needs to go to trial, the entire process hinges on the court’s schedule and availability. Depending on how a personal injury trial develops, it is very possible that more than one court date will be needed to reach a verdict or judgment. For each of those court dates, there could be a multiweek or even multi-month waiting period in between while the court handles other ongoing cases. Therefore, litigation can take months or years to complete, even for cases that first seem straightforward, like a car accident claim after the plaintiff is hit by a texting driver.
On the other hand, settlements are often conducted in a conference room or a law firm. Meetings are based on the availability of the plaintiff and the defendant, not a municipal courtroom. If all parties can free up their schedules for mediation sessions, a settlement can sometimes be reached weeks after an accident or days after discussions first begin.
You’ll Feel Less Stress During a Settlement
Walking into a courtroom can be intimidating for most people. Regardless of your day job, not much can compare to the feeling of being in a courtroom, dealing with a judge, jury, and opposing counsel. Even with a trusted attorney on your side and representing your case, you can still anticipate some unwanted anxiety from the entire process.
If you attempt to settle your case, though, then you will likely find fewer reasons to feel stressed. There are no courtroom formalities to follow, no jury to try to impress, and no judge staring down at you the entire time. Most settlement negotiations only have five people in the room – you, your attorney, the defendant, their own counsel, and a neutral mediator.
Direct Control Over the Compensation You Receive
Settlements also put control over the final compensation amount partially into your hands. You and your lawyer are free to argue for a higher settlement amount if you think you are being offered a lowball amount. You can also present calculations for noneconomic damages like your pain and suffering in a quieter setting, which usually makes explaining how you reached those numbers a bit easier than trying to do the same to a jury.
There is even the rare chance that you could receive a settlement amount above an insurance policy cap. Some insurers may agree to go slightly above policy caps that limit verdict amounts during a settlement at the promise that the entire situation be kept private — which brings this discussion to the next point.
Privacy for All Parties Involved
Anything that happens in a courtroom will end up in public records. If you have any reason to not want your injury claim to go public, then you will want to seek a settlement. Maybe the nature of your injuries is revealing? Or you would stand to lose some reputation as a professional if the details of your accident were known by your colleagues?
With a settlement in a conference room, everything remains private. There is nothing to compel what transpires in a settlement into public record. You can even add a clause in your settlement negotiation that requires all parties to take reasonable steps to keep the matter confidential.
Furthermore, a defendant does not need to admit any liability during a settlement. They can choose to remain private and never admit to any wrongdoing, which looks good for shareholders and their professional reputation. You might know better as the plaintiff, but you are probably more interested in being fairly compensated than hearing a genuine apology for what happened.
No Chance to Appeal
Once a settlement is signed by all parties, it becomes official and finalized. Unlike litigation, there is no way to appeal the result of a settlement. That is to say, the defendant can’t have a change of heart a few days later and try to retract the agreement. This sense of finality in a settlement will give you immediate peace of mind in knowing that the settlement amount is on its way to you and will arrive uninterrupted.
You can also agree to have the settlement amount paid to you in installments across several months or years. Using this approach is beneficial if you know you need to be careful with your finances. Receiving an entire sum at once, as you would likely through successful litigation, could tempt you into overspending.
Settling an Injury Claim Might Be Right for You
As can be seen, settling a personal injury claim certainly has its advantages. Although, there are still benefits to litigation that you should know about. Check our blog frequently for the final installment of this brief blog series, in which we will explore why you should not fear litigating a personal injury lawsuit.
Of course, you can always come to Habbas & Associates to discuss your options with one of our personal injury attorneys. We are located in San Jose but assist clients throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Call (888) 387-4053 today.