The vast majority of legal cases and suits that are filed in the United States are resolved through a settlement before the case ever reaches a courtroom (some estimates say as many as nine out of every ten cases are resolved outside of the courtroom). There are certainly benefits to auto accident settlements:
- A settlement usually results in the case being resolved much quicker than if the case had proceeded to trial;
- Except in certain limited circumstances, settlements cannot be undone and cannot be appealed or later modified. This provides car accident injury victims with some measure of finality;
- A settlement may not result in the injury victim obtaining all of the compensation and/or concessions he or she sought to obtain from the at-fault driver, but it does guarantee that the injury victim will receive some of what he or she sought (this can be comforting if the facts of the auto accident case were not clear or if it was questionable if the victim would have been able to succeed at trial).
A settlement does not come about unless two parties on opposing sides of a legal dispute can come to an agreement as to what constitutes a fair and appropriate resolution of the case. While this does require both parties to negotiate and demonstrate a willingness to compromise, auto accident injury victims should not feel as if they must accept all the terms proposed by the other party in order to achieve a settlement.
What is an Auto Accident Settlement
In simple terms, an auto accident settlement is an agreement between the injury victim and one or more at-fault or responsible parties in which the injury victim agrees to release the at-fault parties from any further liability or responsibility for the victim’s injuries and losses upon the payment of some amount of compensation to the injury victim. Both parties benefit (and lose) some from the arrangement: While the at-fault party must pay compensation to the auto accident injury victim, the at-fault party is typically protected against any further legal responsibility for the victim’s injuries. Similarly, the victim is able to obtain compensation, but loses the ability to pursue additional compensation against the responsible party or parties if it turns out his or her losses are greater than he or she initially thought.
Tips for Obtaining the Best Auto Accident Settlement
Each party’s bargaining position in settlement negotiations depends upon the specific facts and circumstances of the particular case. The more “bargaining power” you have – that is, the more the facts of the case are favorable to you – the more likely it is you will be able to obtain the terms you want. There are several steps injury victims and their attorneys can take to improve their bargaining position, including:
- Thoroughly investigate the facts and circumstances of the case. Before entering into settlement negotiations, an auto accident injury victim must be cognizant of the facts that will be important to the resolution of the case. Only when an injury victim has a firm grasp on these material facts will the victim understand his or her bargaining position – and thereby understand what is a realistic outcome of any settlement talks.
- Know what your case is worth. Part of investigating the facts of the case involves quantifying the victim’s injuries and losses. Even where a victim may not have a strong bargaining position, a settlement should not leave a victim in a financially worse or more vulnerable position than he or she would have been in had no case been filed at all. The victim should have a good idea as to what his or her injuries and losses are likely to total as well as the “bottom-line” amount below which he or she will not settle. Once these figures are known, settlement negotiations can proceed wherein the victim will want to try and obtain a settlement figure as close to the higher figure as possible.
- Do not be afraid to walk away. There is no law that requires parties to settle their case before trial. Sometimes an at-fault party who believes he or she is in a strong bargaining position and will propose terms that include an extremely low compensatory damage award and/or require the victim to waive many important legal rights without justification. If the victim and his or her attorney determine that the settlement is too lopsided and the other party is unwilling to make a more reasonable offer, it may be best to simply walk away from negotiations and to proceed to trial.
Seek Legal Guidance Before Accepting or Turning Down a Settlement
Before you or your injured loved one decides to accept a settlement proposed by an insurance company or an at-fault party, review the terms of the settlement with your experienced auto accident settlement legal team at Stern Law, PLLC. We will carefully explain the terms of any settlement agreement with you so that you can make an informed decision as to whether to accept the settlement or not. We can also help you propose your own settlement terms and will fight to help you obtain the maximum amount of compensation as quickly as possible. Call Stern Law, PLLC at (800) 462-5772 before accepting an auto accident settlement.