What To Expect From a Personal Injury Settlement
A personal injury settlement is reached when the plaintiff agrees in writing to permanently drop their legal case against the defendant in exchange for financial compensation from the defendant, the terms of which are also spelled out in writing. There may be other stipulations in the written agreement as well, such as not being able to talk about the particulars of the case publicly.
How Many Personal Injury Cases Actually Go To Trial?
According to the online edition of Black’s Law Dictionary (second edition), only four to five percent of all personal injury cases in the United States actually go to trial. This means that in the vast majority of personal injury cases, the case is settled before trial. These statistics are tabulated from data collected from all fifty states and compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division of the United States Department of Justice. Therefore, you can trust that these numbers are at least in the right ballpark. Given these overwhelming statistics, if you are contemplating a personal injury lawsuit, it is important for you to know what to expect from a personal injury settlement.
What Is Your Case Worth?
One of the first questions a personal injury attorney is usually asked is, “What is my case worth?” Contrary to popular belief, it is important to note that there is no pre-determined mathematical formula for determining what a case is worth because the specific circumstances of every case are unique. Even if you compare two superficially similar cases, once you dig into the details, you’ll find that the specific facts of the two cases are actually quite different. Keep in mind too that each nuance of a case can significantly affect your settlement.
It is commonly stated online and elsewhere that you can expect your out of court settlement to be some multiplier of your medical bills and other direct economic losses such as lost wages. In fact, some websites specifically suggest a specific multiplier, usually somewhere between 1.5 and 4 times your direct economic losses. However, you should take these general guidelines with a grain of salt because some settlements end up being orders of magnitude greater, especially in cases where the injuries are catastrophic, and other settlements are actually less. It truly depends on the specifics of the case and how good your attorney is at negotiating with the insurance companies.
Is Your Personal Injury Attorney a Trial Attorney?
Another important factor in your settlement amount is whether or not your attorney has a good reputation as a trial attorney in your specific type of personal injury case. Unfortunately, some personal injury attorneys never go to trial because they have no intention of ever going to trial. They’d rather settle for a lower amount than go to trial, even if the settlement is lower than what it should be given the facts of the case. Insurance companies can easily figure out if you have hired this type of attorney and they will never offer as much as they would if they are dealing with a personal injury attorney who is willing to go to trial if necessary and has a good track of winning his or her cases in court! In fact, many cases are settled out of court only after a trial has begun.
If you have a good personal injury attorney who knows how to present compelling evidence to a judge and jury, the insurance company lawyers will increasingly realize as the trial progresses that they have a strong chance of losing the case. As this happens, they will become increasingly willing to negotiate a fair (and larger) settlement.
How Much Time Will It Take To Get a Personal Injury Settlement?
When considering what to expect from a personal injury settlement, most people grossly underestimate the time it will take to reach a settlement. In the vast majority of cases, the settlement will take more than six months. In fact, it is very common for settlements to take one to two years or more! There are several factors that influence how fast a case can settle. Some of these factors include the following:
- The time it takes to know the full extent of the physical injuries. This is particularly true in cases involving catastrophic injuries because it can take months, even years, for medical experts to assess whether or not there will be permanent physical damage and get a good grasp on how extensive the permanent damage will be. Secondary injuries are also often uncovered during this time.
- The time it takes to know the full extent of the mental injuries. The full extent of the psychological effect of an injury will not manifest itself immediately.
- How many witnesses there are. Witnesses have to be deposed to get at the facts of a case. Depositions are taped interviews with witnesses taken under oath outside the courtroom before the trial ever begins. Depending on the number of witnesses, this can easily take six to twelve months. Furthermore, each side has to review these depositions to access the strength of the case for their side and estimate how much a potential jury might award in the case.
- How much investigative work needs to be done. Some cases are far more complicated than others. For example, semi truck accidents often require accident reconstruction experts to access how much fault lies with the plaintiff and how much fault lies with the defendant. In other cases, detectives need to be hired and their work can take a while. Expert witnesses such as medical doctors, forensic economists, and building experts may also need to be hired. These professional evaluations, and preparation for trial if needed, can take a long time.
A Final Word
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the fault of another person, business, or governmental entity, the best way to protect your rights and get the best settlement possible is to hire an attorney with a winning track record in your specific type of personal injury case. The May Firm provides free consultations for people shopping for a personal injury attorney in California. Further, if the May Firm takes you on as a client, you do not have to pay anything until the case settles or they win your case in court. With a superb record of winning personal injury cases in court, insurance companies are much more likely to offer fair (and larger) settlements if you are represented by The May Firm.