Settling a Personal Injury Claim: How Long It Takes and What to Expect

Michael L. Saile, Jr.
Car Accident Attorney in Bucks County Pennsylvania

You may not know it by watching lawyers on television or even reading the news, but only a small portion of cases makes it to trial. While it may be advantageous for one reason or another to take your case to trial, settling a personal injury claim can be quicker and much less stressful.

What is a settlement?

A settlement is an agreement between the parties to end the case based on a deal. Usually, the defendant offers the injured party (called a plaintiff) a sum of money and, in return, the plaintiff will end the case (called a dismissal).

Parties can make a settlement at the beginning of a case all the way up to right before a verdict. Some settlements even occur after a verdict in return for a party not seeking an appeal.

What are the benefits of settling?  

A settlement is the preferred solution to most cases for several reasons. Generally, a settlement will allow the parties to a lawsuit to end litigation in a much shorter time period than a trial. In complex cases, trial can take several years from injury to resolution. In the meantime, victims who need compensation to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and keep their family afloat must wait with no guarantee that they will receive what they so desperately need.

Settling a claim can also be advantageous to defendants. Trials are public by nature. The last thing a company wants is its name in headlines in connection with a case involving an injury to a customer or improper behavior by its employees. Many settlements include confidentiality clauses or nondisclosure agreements, which disallow disclosing how much money the defendants paid.

In addition, it is also a much cheaper route than taking a case to litigation. While our attorneys do not receive any compensation unless we win your case, the longer a case takes, the more expensive it is for the victim. That is why we do what we can to keep a case out of court unless the defendant refuses to offer a fair settlement.

Settlement also has the benefit of giving the parties some certainty of outcome. Even if a case may seem like an easy win or a hopeless loss, any trial can end in big surprises. While you may think your case is solid, you may come out of months or even years of litigation with much less than you need to survive.

The First Offer

Many defendants will offer initial settlements very soon after the accident. Generally, it is a bad idea to accept the first settlement offer. Usually, the offer is a low-ball amount the defendant offers hoping to end the case before you have had the chance to realize the true value of your injuries.

It is very important that you know the true value of your injuries prior to making a settlement demand. If you make a settlement demand that only includes your past or present damages, you may be missing out on thousands of dollars worth of future damages. Any valuation must consider your all of your damages, both economic and noneconomic.

Do not accept the first offer without at least running it by a Cordisco & Saile LLC attorney first.

Negotiations

If your attorney believes the amount is too low, he will begin negotiations. Settlement negotiations are complex and often take time. This is not always a bad thing as it is important that your attorney ensures you get the compensation you need to pay for your injuries.

How long do negotiations take?

As stated above settlement negotiations do not happen overnight. Under most circumstances, an attorney will advise you to take a settlement offer only when you know all of the facts of your case.

Many different things can delay a settlement:

  • You may need to wait for evidence to become available: Certain necessary evidence is not available.
  • You will want to wait until you understand your full prognosis: As we discussed above, you need to know your full prognosis before you accept a settlement amount. Depending on the severity of your injuries, this could take many months.
  • You may want to get a second opinion: If your doctor says that you have reached “maximum medical improvement,” but you feel that you have not improved, you may want to seek a second opinion to ensure you are not leaving money on the table.
  • Your demand is a very high amount: Obviously, the defendant will want to give you as little money as possible. If your injuries are severe and your demand is high, the defendant’s insurer will want to ensure it has examined all angles before giving you the money you need.
  • The defendant wants you to give up: If the defendant knows that you really need the money, it may drag the case out hoping you just give up and accept a lower amount than you deserve.
  • A defendant is worried about future cases. Many companies think that if it settles your case, then many more plaintiffs will file claims looking for easy settlement.

Mediation

In the case where the parties simply cannot agree on the settlement amount or details, the parties may submit their case to mediation or arbitration.

Mediation is a process where both parties submit their cases to a neutral decision maker who recommends an outcome that is best for both parties. The decision is not binding on the parties and either party can refuse but the process ends in settlement in a large percentage of cases. Mediation can be a much cheaper alternative to going to trial. Your attorney will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

Do I need an attorney?

Many plaintiffs miss out on thousands of dollars because they did not think they needed an attorney for their case. Ensure that you get every cent you need and deserve; enlist the help of an attorney from Cordisco & Saile LLC. Our attorneys will represent you every step of the way from filing your claim to settlement negotiations.

We will do everything in our power to protect your rights to compensation. Contact us today at 215-642-2336.