You have grounds for a personal injury claim. Your attorney will help work to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve, whether that comes in the form of a verdict or settlement–but what is the difference between the two?
Most notably, a settlement occurs when you can reach an agreement with the liable party or that party’s insurance company. A verdict, on the other hand, is usually handed down in the courtroom after you take your claim to court.
What You Need to Know About Settlements
Most of the time, the liable party will try to settle out of court, rather than taking the claim to court. Taking a personal injury claim to court can significantly increase the legal costs for both sides, not to mention dragging the process out longer than necessary. Most personal injury claims do ultimately settle out of court.
Reaching a settlement agreement, however, is a process.
You may receive an initial settlement offer from the liable party shortly after your accident. Sometimes, the insurance company or the liable party directly will try to settle the claim quickly, minimizing that party’s financial liability and getting you to accept a fast offer. You should consult an attorney before accepting that offer, since it may not reflect the compensation you really deserve following your accident.
Your attorney will then put together a demand package that reflects the compensation you feel you deserve after your accident. Your demand package will include how your accident occurred and the percentage liability born by that party as well as a breakdown of the funds you feel you deserve in compensation for your injuries. This breakdown will include your medical expenses, lost wages related to the accident, and any financial losses you suffered due to the accident as well as compensation for the pain and suffering that resulted from your accident.
The liable party then has an opportunity to respond to your demand package. Most often, the company will come back with a lower offer, especially if your injuries do not significantly exceed the maximum benefits offered by an insurance policy. You may need to discuss that offer with your attorney before deciding whether to accept.
Often, settlement negotiations go back and forth several times as the injured party and the liable party attempt to reach an agreement. The liable party will generally try to reduce financial liability as much as possible, while, as the injured party, you may want to increase the compensation you ultimately receive as much as possible. At any point, either you or the liable party can decide to stop negotiations by agreeing to a settlement proposal.
Once you arrive at an agreement, you will sign the settlement agreement, which is a legally binding contract. The settlement agreement lays out the funds you will receive in compensation for your injuries and absolves the liable party of future financial responsibility. Usually, once you accept a settlement offer, you will not have the right to claim further financial compensation. Even if you suffer additional complications or discover further injuries, you have likely received the full compensation you can get from your accident.
After signing a settlement agreement, the liable party generally has 30 days to issue payment.
What You Need to Know About Court Verdicts
Before you take your case to court, you and the liable party will go through multiple rounds of negotiation as you try to arrive at an agreement that works for both parties. Typically, your attorney will advise taking your claim to court if you and the liable party simply cannot arrive at a reasonable compromise. Usually, the liable party will attempt to severely limit the financial compensation offered for your injuries. The liable party may claim that you did not, as you claim, suffer those injuries in the accident or that your injuries cause fewer limitations than you claim. In some cases, the liable party may try to leave liability for the accident resting on your shoulders, claiming that you caused or contributed significantly to the accident.
When you go to court, both sides will have the opportunity to lay out their cases and any evidence related to the claim. You may bring in witnesses or review witness statements. You may need to bring in evidence concerning your injuries and when they occurred as well as what limitations they cause in your life.
The court, which may consist of a judge or a judge and jury depending on your claim and its value, will hear your claim and hand down a verdict. This verdict will establish exactly how much compensation the liable party has to pay you and when they have to issue that payment: usually within 30 days of the court verdict. This agreement is also legally binding.
You can still decide to settle before your claim goes to court. Once you receive a court-issued verdict, however, you cannot take a past settlement agreement, nor can the liable party try to go back and offer more. Court verdicts usually end the personal injury claim. In some very rare cases, you may choose to dispute the claim through an appeal. In most cases, however, the appeal will not significantly change the verdict, and can substantially increase the legal expenses associated with your claim.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Many past personal injury victims have found that having an attorney on their side substantially increases the odds that they will receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries. Often, just having an attorney lets the liable party know that you plan to aggressively pursue the compensation you deserve, and it can help increase the amount that party offers as a settlement. Not only that, an attorney can help make sure you understand your legal rights, including your right to compensation following an accident caused by another party’s negligence, and fight on your behalf as you file your claim.
Did you suffer an injury due to another party’s negligence? Whether you can reach an out-of-court settlement or need to pursue a court verdict, we can help. Contact Allan Berger & Associates today at 504-526-2222 for a free consultation.