Most personal injury cases settle without going to trial. However, some cases go to trial because the insurance company for the other party or the parties involved in the case refuses to negotiate a fair settlement for the injured victim.
Your personal injury lawyer works hard to settle your injury case as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, your lawyer does not compromise your right to compensation to avoid going to trial.
Many factors must be considered before deciding whether to settle or take a personal injury case to trial.
Factors to Consider Before Taking a Personal Injury Case to Trial
There are no guarantees in a personal injury trial. You could have a very strong case and still lose in court. Jurors can be very unpredictable. Therefore, your lawyer weighs numerous factors before advising you on whether to accept a settlement offer or proceed to trial. Factors might include:
- Conflicting expert testimony that could raise doubts about liability
- You could be partially at fault for the cause of the accident or injury, which reduces the money you might receive at trial
- There is insufficient evidence to support your claim
- The cost of a trial outweighs the value of the claim
If an experienced trial attorney does not think he can win your case in court, he might recommend accepting the settlement offer. It could be better than taking the case to trial and losing.
What are the Steps in a Personal Injury Case?
Regardless of whether you were injured because of a car accident, medical malpractice, defective product, commercial vehicle accident, slip and fall, or construction accident, the steps in a personal injury case are similar.
When you meet with a Houston personal injury lawyer, he listens to what happened to you. He evaluates your claim based on your story and any evidence you might bring with you to the consultation. The attorney may want to research the matter further to obtain additional information and facts before offering you legal advice and agreeing to take the case.
The lawyer conducts a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the claim. Steps that the attorney might take during the investigation include, but are not limited to:
- Obtain and review accident reports and police reports
- Search for physical evidence from the accident scene
- Interview witnesses and obtain statements
- Search for video of the accident
- Consult with your medical providers regarding your injuries and prognosis
- Research laws and statutes related to the claim
- Identify all parties who could be liable for damages
- Review insurance policies to verify coverage and policy limits
- Retain medical experts, accident reconstructionists, and other experts to assist in the investigation
There could be additional steps that the attorney takes, depending on the facts and circumstances of your personal injury case.
Filing Insurance Claims
As the attorney investigates your claim, he communicates with insurance companies and files notices of claims on your behalf. The lawyer calculates and monitors deadlines for filing claims as he continues to gather evidence.
Gathering evidence can take months. Some personal injury cases are complex. The lawyer might need to hire an investigator or other professionals to obtain evidence to prove that the other party caused your injuries.
Preparing a Settlement Demand Package
All of the above steps are happening while you heal from your injuries. Your attorney will not prepare a settlement demand package until you complete medical treatment. Until your doctor releases and provides a detailed prognosis regarding any impairments or disabilities, you cannot know the extent of your damages and losses.
If you sustained a permanent disability, you could be entitled to future damages for loss of income, ongoing medical care, and personal care. You might also be entitled to compensation for scarring and disfigurement. Future damages could be a substantial portion of the value of your personal injury claim.
Once you complete medical treatment, your personal injury attorney prepares a settlement demand package. A typical demand package might include:
All of the above steps are happening while you heal from your injuries.
- Summary of the facts in the case
- Legal argument, including case law and statutes, for holding the other party liable for your damages
- A detailed description of your injuries
- List of your damages, including physical injuries, emotional suffering, and financial losses
- The amount of the demand for settlement
Keep in mind that the amount demanded in the initial settlement demand letter is generally not what you will receive for your injury claim. There’s typically a period of negotiation.
Negotiating with the Insurance Company
Negotiating a settlement with the insurance company could take a few months. The insurance company reviews the settlement demand. Its lawyers research the law.
When the company completes its analysis of the claim, it generally sends a counteroffer to the lawyer. If the offer is fair, your attorney may advise you to accept the settlement offer.
However, in many cases, the parties meet to discuss the initial demand and the counteroffer to try to reach an agreement somewhere in the middle. Depending on the case, your attorney may advise you to agree to mediation to settle the claim without a trial.
If your attorney and the insurance company can agree on a settlement amount, a settlement agreement is drafted. The settlement agreement releases all parties from any claims arising from the accident. In return, you receive an agreed-upon amount of compensation for your injuries, financial losses, and other damages.
The settlement agreement is a binding contract. Once the agreement is signed, you cannot file a lawsuit or seek additional money for your personal injury claim.
Negotiate with Medical Providers
In some personal injury cases, the medical bills are very high. Your personal injury attorney attempts to negotiate with your medical providers to accept a lower amount to satisfy their medical liens and outstanding bills.
By doing so, the attorney can put more money in your pocket.
If your health insurance provider paid for medical treatment related to the accident injuries, the health insurance provider also has a lien against the settlement proceeds. Your attorney can also negotiate with the health insurance company for a lower payoff of the lien.
What Happens if the Claim Cannot Be Settled?
If you and the other party cannot settle your injury claim, the only other option is to file a personal injury lawsuit. A lawsuit could take years to go to trial and can be costly. Therefore, your lawyer will do his best to settle your injury claim without going to trial.
However, if the only way to protect your best interests is to file a lawsuit and take the matter to court, that is what we do. The top priority in any personal injury case is protecting your best interests by seeking maximum compensation for your personal injury claim.