When you’ve suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence, the insurance company of the person or party responsible will often make you an offer to resolve the claim without going to trial or dragging out the process with lengthy negotiations.
But should you accept a settlement? Understanding when to sign on the dotted line and when to push for more is crucial for maximizing your payout and getting the compensation you deserve. Discover the advantages of accepting a settlement, the factors you should consider, the risks of settling too early, and why you need a personal injury lawyer.
What Are the Advantages of Accepting a Settlement?
Sometimes, the advantages of accepting a settlement outweigh the potential benefits of going to trial.
Begin the Healing Process and Move Forward
While it can be well worth the wait for a substantial payout, the claims process can be tedious and overwhelming — especially if you file a lawsuit. You might find it challenging to look to the future with legal action looming over you.
Accidents are often traumatic and can have a lasting impact on your mental health and wellbeing. It can feel impossible to begin healing when you’re constantly reminded of your accident or retraumatized every time you need to recount what happened.
Less Risk Compared to Trial
Most personal injury claims settle long before a trial is on the docket because it’s risky for both parties. A win for the defendant can leave you with less compensation than previously offered — or none at all. That alone can make settling the right choice.
But the other side has their reasons for avoiding a trial too. Juries are unpredictable. If a jury finds the defendant liable, they might decide on a figure far more than anything floated during negotiations. Sometimes, the best strategy for a defendant — especially when there is significant evidence of their liability — is to cut their losses and agree to pay you the compensation you’re entitled to. This can be beneficial to you, as it avoids an expensive, drawn-out legal battle and all the stress that can come with it.
Secure the Funds You Need
If you’ve sustained severe injuries in an accident, you may need extensive medical treatment, such as surgery, rehabilitation, and physical therapy. Medical expenses can skyrocket rapidly, and you may feel pressured to settle your bill. On top of that, you may be unable to work and struggling to make ends meet. Even once you accept a settlement, you face a month-long wait to receive your check.
If you decide to go to trial, it will take even longer. You will likely wait years for a trial date, and a lot needs to happen before then. Your attorney must gather evidence, take depositions, source expert witnesses, hold further negotiations, file motions, and prepare your case — and that’s just the pretrial stage!
The sooner you resolve your claim, the faster you will receive your settlement and be able to focus on your recovery.
Keep More of Your Compensation
While you may receive a higher payout from a trial victory, you’ll likely pay more in fees, which cuts into your final settlement. It takes time to prepare for trial and build a strong case, and your attorney will incur costs for expert testimony and reports, accident reconstructions, and more. Once your attorney deducts your fees, you may be barely better off than if you’d have accepted a settlement — one you’d receive long before getting a trial date.
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Stay Out of the Public Eye
When a case goes to trial, it becomes a matter of public record. While your personal injury case is unlikely to amass widespread media attention, it can still be stressful knowing your private details are being aired for anyone who wanders into the courtroom or searches for your name in a database.
Settling outside of court allows you to stay out of the spotlight and keep the details of your case private.
What to Consider before Accepting a Settlement
Accepting a settlement has its pros, but that doesn’t mean you should take the first offer presented by the defendant. Here’s what to consider before you accept a settlement offer.
Is Your Settlement Fair?
It can be tempting to resolve your claim quickly, but remember that your settlement should cover your past, present, and future damages, including:
- Your medical expenses: Will you need additional surgery? Have you received the all-clear from your doctor, or do you at least know your condition won’t deteriorate? Once you sign the paperwork, you release the defendant from liability and can’t claim again.
- Your lost wages: If you need long-term treatment, how much time will you need off work, and will your payout cover it? If your injuries prevent you from performing your job responsibilities, forcing you to take a lower salary, does your settlement reflect your pay cut?
- Pain and suffering: Are you left with chronic pain or weakness because of your injuries, and does your settlement compensate you for it?
It can be helpful to enter negotiations with a figure in mind you’d be happy to accept and use the initial offer to gauge whether it’s realistic. Insurance companies will always start low, so if your ideal figure is less than or similar to what the defendant presents, aim for more. If your number is leagues ahead of what’s on the table, you might need to adjust your expectations.
You should never accept a settlement before understanding the extent of your injuries and speaking to an attorney in the state where your accident happened. For example, if you’re in Texas, a personal injury lawyer in McAllen can advise on whether an offer is fair and seek expert medical opinions to determine if your injuries will likely worsen.
Deciding whether to accept a settlement can be tricky. Considering how quickly you want to move on with your life, how fast you’d like to receive compensation, and whether you’re prepared to risk a trial for a higher payout will help you make the right decision.