Negotiating a Settlement to Resolve a Personal Injury Case
Nearly all civil cases settle out of court, although some cases are resolved within a few weeks of the accident while others do not take place until the trial begins. When it comes to settling your negligence case, the numbers on the clock do not mean nearly as much as the numbers behind the dollar sign.
An attorney has a moral, legal, and ethical responsibility to obtain fair compensation for your injuries, and not settle the case quickly. While accepting less than full value and ending the case early would certainly be in the lawyer’s best interest, such a move is almost never in the client’s best interest.
What Is the Case Worth?
The first step is to determine a case’s approximate settlement value. Though exact methods vary, the settlement value is basically the amount of economic damages plus the amount of non-economic damages divided by the chances of winning at trial.
- Economic damages are relatively easy to determine. These items include property losses, medical bills, and lost wages. To better calculate the amount, it is best to wait until most of these expenses are finalized.
- Non-economic damages greatly depend on the type of accident. A jury is much more willing to award damages for pain and suffering in a serious fatal crash as opposed to a fender-bender.
- Calculating the probability of winning at trial is more art than science. An attorney must take a host of factors into account, such as the likely composition of the jury, the attitude of the presiding judge, and the comparative legal and factual strength of the two cases.
While this calculation does not yield an absolute figure, it does help an attorney determine whether a settlement offer should be rejected outright or seriously considered.
How Long Will it Take?
If liability is fairly clear, many low-damage cases may settle within a few months, because the settlement value is so easy to determine. The worse the damages and the more complex the issues, the longer the case will last. In addition, some insurance companies have a reputation for settling cases early, while others may fight until the end.
Most insurance companies pressure plaintiffs to take the first settlement offer, because they know the plaintiffs are under financial duress. If appropriate, an attorney may be able to arrange a lawsuit loan to hold you over until the case settles.
The number-one rule in any negotiation is never settle for less and never demand too much, and a seasoned attorney knows how to walk that line. For a free consultation with an experienced New Braunfels personal injury lawyer, contact us. We represent victims throughout South Central Texas.