Many personal injury cases never go to trial. For defendants, reaching a negotiated settlement can be preferable to the risk and expense of a drawn-out court battle. For the injured plaintiff, settlements can have a number of benefits as well.
What is a settlement?
Before getting into the question of whether it’s a good idea to settle, it’s helpful to understand what a settlement is. Settlements only take place after a law suit has been started—that is, the plaintiff has filed a complaint against the defendant, making certain assertions about the defendant’s liability for the plaintiff’s injuries. A defendant typically hires an attorney to respond to the complaint, and the parties begin to assemble their case.
The American legal system is designed to encourage the parties involved in civil litigation to reach settlements. A settlement saves the limited resources of the court system by avoiding all the complex work that goes into a courtroom trial. For that reason, courts will encourage the parties in a lawsuit to explore settlement. For some issues, the law requires a good faith effort by both sides to come to a pre-trial agreement.
The court involved in the case oversees the settlement negotiation process. In fact, the negotiation of a settlement can itself be fairly complicated, especially if one side is not acting in good faith. Settlement negotiations can take place in front of a professional mediator, who helps the two sides come to common ground. When the parties reach an agreement the court must approve it before it is finalized. In doing so, the court also closes the litigation case on the terms agreed upon by the parties.
There are a number of good reasons for an injured plaintiff to settle a case before it goes to trial:
- Certainty and control. A trial always involves the risk that the judge or jury will not find in the plaintiff’s favor. A settlement eliminates that possibility, while giving the plaintiff a greater say in the details of the final outcome.
- Faster results. Court procedures can take months or even years, especially if the defendant appeals the decision of the trial court. A settlement can result in the plaintiff getting compensated more quickly.
- Lower costs. Although a personal injury plaintiff’s attorneys typically work on contingency (that is, we don’t get paid until the plaintiff gets paid), attorneys are still entitled to recover for expenses incurred in preparation for trial. Compared to a settlement negotiation, a trial involves many more hours of lawyer work and can require expensive developmental work like expert testimony. In a settlement the plaintiff can receive a larger share of the final payout.
Potential reasons to reject a settlement
Some plaintiffs may want to push through to trial. Here are some examples:
- The defendant’s settlement offer is low relative to the amount the plaintiff believes is owed.
- The plaintiff wants the defendant’s bad behavior to be exposed. A trial is a public event, whereas a settlement’s terms may be confidential. Of course, a plaintiff may want the details that would come out during trial to be kept confidential as well
- Bad faith or dishonesty by the defendant makes settlement undesirable.
GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm
The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area for more than 45 years. If you have been injured we are happy to review your case and discuss your legal options with you. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476, or request a call through our website.