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Negotiating a Personal Injuries Settlement

Negotiating a Personal Injuries Settlement
Settlements are often preferable to going to trial since they can save both time and legal costs. However, if you decide to take the settlement route, the process of determining a fair amount for which to settle your injury claim can be difficult since it is dependent on multiple factors. To determine the amount of a settlement, both sides begin by deciding on their own what they think the case is worth. In other words, what a potential jury might award the plaintiff if the case went to trial. This is generally done by researching similar cases to see what juries have awarded in the past, and then factoring in the circumstances of the case at hand. In the event that an insurance company is handling the defendant’s side, there might be predetermined settlement amounts depending on the type of lawsuit. Once both sides have come up with an estimate for an acceptable settlement amount, they will begin making offers and counter-offers. As the facts become clearer and the likelihood of the plaintiff prevailing at trial is fleshed out, the prospective amount may go higher or lower. Once the sides agree on an acceptable settlement amount, they will sign a settlement agreement and the plaintiff then proceeds to drop the case. The following are some key factors that can help determine the potential value of a settlement:
  • The defendant’s assets- If a defendant doesn’t have the means to pay a high settlement, then a high settlement won’t be a possibility regardless of the facts of the case.
  • Damages- For the plaintiff, this entails what their injuries cost monetarily, physically, and mentally. Damages can also include medical expenses, lost work, and any other concrete financial losses suffered by the plaintiff.
  • Liability- This is a strong determinant for how strong the plaintiff’s case actually is, i.e. is the defendant liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Even if high damages can be shown, liability will still be the crucial issue.

Personal Injury Settlement vs. Verdict: What’s the Difference?

If you have been injured and are considering a personal injury lawsuit, you may be curious about possible outcomes. Will you receive compensation at all? How long will the case take? Do you even have a case at all?

If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, or an auto accident, in a dog-bite incident or even as the result of a defective product, you may be eligible to receive compensation.

Depending on the specific details of your case, there are two distinct outcomes of personal injury cases. Your case will either end in a settlement, or it will go to trial and be decided by a jury.

What is a Settlement?

A settlement refers to an agreement reached pre-trial between the plaintiff and the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company. The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled without a trial, with some citing figures as high as 95% for these cases. This means your lawyer and the lawyer for the defendant, or the defendant’s insurance company, have come to a compromise on the terms of your injury claim. This often ends in some sort of financial payout, but the terms can vary widely.

What is a Verdict?

A verdict refers to a final decision by a jury. If you are unable to come to agreeable terms and settle, the lawsuit can advance to a judge or jury trial. Personal injury cases are heard in civil court and standards are slightly different from that of criminal court.

In civil court, the burden of proof for evidence is a "preponderance of the evidence," as opposed to "beyond a reasonable doubt" in criminal court. It is up to the plaintiff to establish that they sustained injury due to the negligence of the defendant. In civil court jury trials, there are generally eight jurors and three-fourths of the jurors must agree on a verdict.

From there, the jury, or sometimes the judge, will then determine the financial compensation that is due to the plaintiff, to be paid by the defendant. Some states, including Nevada, have a cap on the amount of compensation that can be awarded in certain types of personal injury cases. These caps often only limit non-economic damages, meaning it does not cap payment for your medical bills and lost wages at work. For example, compensation for non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits is capped at $350,000 in Nevada.

Which is better for me?

Each case should be viewed based on its specific context, circumstances and other details and facts. Many plaintiffs, however, tend to decide settling is the best option for their specific circumstances as this limits the risk of going forward with a jury trial and incurring additional costs associated with litigation. In circumstances when a plaintiff feels they have not been offered fair compensation during settlement negotiations, they may want to take the case to trial.

For more information on what legal options are available to help you receive fair compensation call Greenman, Goldberg, Raby & Martinez at (702) 388-4476 to schedule your free consultation today.