Deciding whether or not to settle a personal injury accident case can be a confusing and frustrating decision. There is no easy way to decide-no magic formula or crystal ball that can make the decision for you. Sometimes the insurance company is not accepting that their insured is negligent in which case they are not offering to settle the case. That makes the decision easy. The majority of the time, however, the insurance company representing the other driver makes some type of offer to settle the case. In that case, the plaintiff must decide whether it is in her best interest to accept the offer, make a counter offer to settle or refuse the offer altogether and proceed to trial. While many personal injury accident plaintiffs rely on the advice of their attorney when deciding whether or not to settle, the ultimate decision must be made by the plaintiff himself. Each personal injury case is unique, but the general analysis of a case is similar in all cases.
As in many important decision, the decision whether to settle a personal injury case often comes down to possible gain versus potential risk. How much does the plaintiff stand to gain versus the potential risk? In order to assess both the potential gain and the potential risk, the plaintiff should analyze a few key issues in the case. First, how clear is negligence? The plaintiff may be certain that the other driver was at fault, but negligence is a legal term and if the plaintiff takes the case to trial then the jury must agree that the defendant is negligent. The more defendants involved in a case the more complicated the issue of negligence becomes. Additionally, just because an insurance company has been willing to concede negligence for the purposes of settlement negotiations doesn’t mean that they will concede negligence at trial. In fact in most cases they will claim they were not negligent at trial. Keep in mind that in most cases settlement negotiations are not admissible in trial.
Another big issue to consider is the amount of compensation that you feel is fair compared to what the insurance company is offering the plaintiff. If there is a large discrepancy in the amount of economic damages they are offering the plaintiff (for things like medical bills) then a plaintiff may be forced to go to trial just to recover her our of pocket medical expenses she has already incurred. On the other hand, if the money issue revolved around non-economic damages (pain and suffering) then the risk of taking the case to trial may be greater than the potential reward. Non-economic damages are much more subjective. A jury could award the plaintiff substantially more than she was offered prior to trial, but they could also award her nothing.
One last consideration in all personal injury accident cases when deciding whether to accept a settlement is time. A defendant almost always has the advantage when time is considered. A personal injury trial can take years to actually make it to trial. If the defendant loses and appeals the award then it can take even longer before the plaintiff sees any compensation. If the plaintiff wins a large award and it stands up on appeal then the wait may be worth it, but many times the award is less than or similar to what the plaintiff was offered prior to trial yet she has waited years to receive it.
If you are the plaintiff in a personal injury accident case and would like to discuss your legal options, please contact California personal injury attorney Emery Ledger of Ledger & Associates at 1-800-300-0001 or visit his website at www.ledgerlaw.com.