Only about 5% of personal injury cases end up going to trial, so if you have a personal injury claim, the odds are that your case will settle out of court. You need to know what to expect if that happens. This blog will discuss what you need to know about the settlement process in personal injury cases.
When you work with a Los Angeles personal injury attorney on your case, they will handle many of these issues for you. Still, litigation is stressful, so it can reduce anxiety when you have an idea of what is going on behind the scenes.
The Usual Steps Involved in Settling a Personal Injury Claim
The order of these actions can vary from one case to another. Here is a quick overview of what the lawyers do when handling and trying to settle a personal injury claim:
- Early in the case, the plaintiff’s attorney will send a demand letter to the defendant or their insurance company. The demand letter will explain how the defendant harmed the plaintiff, why the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, and how much money the defendant will have to pay the plaintiff to settle their personal injury claim. Often, the monetary value of the case gets stated in terms of “at least” a certain amount, for example, “at least $1,250,000.”
- The defendant’s insurer will likely send the claim to an insurance defense attorney at this point or when the plaintiff’s attorney files the lawsuit.
- The defense lawyer will respond to the demand letter by denying liability, contesting the amount of damages, or ignoring the letter entirely. In reality, the response, or lack of one, merely starts the negotiation process.
- Both sides perform discovery, gathering the documents or other evidence needed to build their case and tear down the other side’s case. They might take depositions, send interrogatories or document requests to the other side, and continue communicating with each other about the economic value of the claim.
- Offers and counteroffers can go back and forth, with the lawyers talking with their clients during the process. Eventually, the parties in almost all of these cases agree on a dollar amount and settlement terms. One of the common settlement terms is confidentiality, which requires the plaintiff to keep the settlement amount private.
- The lawyers draft paperwork for the settlement. There could be a settlement agreement. You can expect to have to sign a waiver or release that says you can never file any more claims based on the accident or event that harmed you.
- The insurance company will send a check to your lawyer. The check will bear your name and the name of your lawyer. You will need to sign this check. Your lawyer will deposit the check in a trust account, pay litigation expenses and deduct their attorney fees and other agreed-upon items. They will send you a check for the remaining amount.
Neither party can file an appeal after a settlement.
What Motivates the Plaintiff and Defendant to Settle
Settling their personal injury case gives certainty to the plaintiff. Trials are unpredictable. Witnesses can be unreliable, changing their testimony on the stand. The jury might be in a bad mood and find in favor of the defendant. It is often better to accept a settlement that might be less than you could win at trial rather than take the risk of getting nothing.
The defendant has to pay their lawyer by the hour, unlike the plaintiff, whose attorney receives a percentage of the settlement or jury verdict for their fees. Trials are expensive. One way for the defendant to keep their attorney fees down is to reach a settlement.
You can talk to a Los Angeles personal injury attorney about your case. We offer a free initial consultation with no obligation. Reach out to our office today.