If you have been involved in a personal injury case, understanding the steps in the legal process can be difficult and the steps to reach a settlement, in particular, are very important for you to understand.
As part of our ongoing Legal Education Series, we thought we’d offer some expert legal insight from our team at Murphy & Prachthauser.
Take a look below, as we answer some of the most common questions clients ask when it comes to settlements in a personal injury or personal accident case.
What is a Settlement?
A settlement is an agreement between an injured person and an insurance company or person responsible for causing the injury by which the responsible person/insurance company agrees to pay a sum of money and the injured person agrees to accept the offer.
How is a Settlement Reached?
A settlement is reached through the process of negotiation. In general, an injured person will make a demand for a sum of money, and in response, the responsible party/insurance company will make an offer to pay a lesser amount of money.
Through the process of negotiation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, the injured party gradually reduces their demand and the responsible party/insurance company gradually increases their offer.
A settlement is reached if the responsible party/insurance company agrees to pay a sum of money, which the injured party is willing to accept.
When Would a Settlement Offer be Made?
The responsible party/insurance company will sometimes make a small settlement offer shortly after an injury occurs. It is generally not advisable to accept such an offer.
To properly evaluate an offer the injured party must know their prognosis, in other words, whether they will make a full recovery from their injuries or whether there will be permanent lifetime problems.
In most cases a settlement offer will not be made until a doctor is able to provide final medical opinions regarding an injured person’s prognosis.
What Happens When a Settlement is Accepted?
When a settlement is accepted the responsible party/insurance company issues a settlement check in exchange for a Release. A Release is basically a contract by which the responsible party/insurance company agrees to pay a certain sum of money to the injured party and the injured party agrees to make no further claim against the responsible party/insurance company.
What Happens When a Settlement is Rejected?
When a settlement is rejected a lawsuit is commenced, or if a lawsuit is already pending when the offer is made, the decision is made to continue the case to a jury trial.
At a trial, the jury will determine what amount the responsible party/insurance company must pay to compensate the injured person and the injured person must accept the amount as determined by the jury.
How Does a Personal Injury Attorney Help with this Process?
An attorney helps with this process by first evaluating the manner in which an individual was injured, in other words, considering who was at fault in causing the injury. An attorney will also work with treating physicians to obtain medical reports accurately documenting the injured party’s condition.
An attorney will then also determine what effects an injury will have on an individual, including medical expenses that may be incurred in the future. An evaluation will also be made as to the effect injuries have on an individual’s ability to return to their prior employment or earn other income. An attorney will analyze settlement offers in comparison to what a jury would likely award at trial. This analysis is based on the attorney’s experience with prior settlements and verdicts of similar personal injury cases.
Do you have any additional questions for our team of attorneys on settlements? Please contact us directly, or let us know in the comments!
At Murphy & Prachthauser we practice personal injury law the way it should be practiced – motivated and equipped to do our best for you. We take pride in being good lawyers who help people.
If you have a case you would like to speak to a lawyer about, please contact us to complete a free evaluation and get an experienced team of lawyers working on your behalf.