How to Understand Personal Injury Settlements: A Step-by-Step Guide

By Wexler Coding

When the headlines announce big jury verdicts, some people are fooled into thinking that a jury verdict is to be an expected outcome of every lawsuit. But, in fact, 95% of lawsuits result in settlements rather than jury verdicts. That is to say, only about one in 20 lawsuits will end up with a jury verdict at trial, rather than a settlement.

What is it?

A settlement is an agreement in which the person who was injured agrees to accept personal injury compensation in exchange for dismissing a claim for damages against the defendant who caused the injury. A settlement is often exclusively an award of money, but settlements can also include non-monetary awards, such as an apology from the defendant or a change in policy and procedure.

When does it occur?

For a personal injury case, the settlement can occur at any point from the time the injured person contacts an attorney to the very end of a trial. The case could be settled even before the Complaint is filed. But it’s more common for a personal injury settlement to occur after the Complaint has been filed and before the case goes to trial. Sometimes, attorneys for both sides might not enter settlement negotiations until after they start trial. And the injury claim process is so variable that sometimes settlement negotiations may continue even after the point at which the jury has heard the entire trial and begins deliberating. There have been many frustrated juries that come back to the court after spending hours or even days deliberating, only to be told by the judge that the lawyers reached a settlement!

Why enter into a settlement?

Many cases resolve by settlement before trial begins. Indeed, a main motivation in settling the case before trial is that trials can be expensive and risky. Even if your case seems strong, you can never truly predict what the jury will think and what conclusion they will draw. Perhaps they agree that the defendant caused your injuries, but what if they think you’re not really that injured? They may grant you a very small award.

To eliminate that risk of a jury that doesn’t agree with your position, both sides have to give in a little to reach a settlement. Indeed, settlements are often compromises. President Dwight D. Eisenhower is attributed as saying, “Compromise is like the middle of the road; always safer to walk on than the edges.” Thus, settlement is a safe way to ensure that both parties walk away with something reassuring: for the injured person, they walk away with guaranteed compensation; for the defendant, they walk away with the relief of not risking a large jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

If you would like to consult with experienced personal injury lawyers, contact the attorneys at VSCP Law.

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