Should I Settle My Personal Injury Case or Sue?
As accident attorneys, we are commonly asked whether it makes more sense to settle a potential injury claim or pursue litigation. So what is a settlement? A settlement is a resolution of a case. It ends all litigation or prevents the need for litigation the first place. You can reach a settlement at any time from early on after an accident through litigation. Settlements occur in, but are not limited to, car accidents, medical malpractice, and slip and falls. To assist you in this decision, an experienced personal injury lawyer is essential. The lawyer reviews all the evidence and depending on the circumstances can advise you to settle or go to trial. There simply is no reason not to settle out of court if you can get a fair settlement for your damages. Generally, this is the process of settling a case.
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Evidence in Personal Injury Cases
When you are the victim of a personal injury case, you must prove every element of your case. Most states use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This standard requires you to produce enough evidence to convince the trier of fact that it is more likely than not or fifty-one percent that the accident caused your injuries. For example, you tell the jury that you had a concussion after the accident. In order to sustain the concussion, you must produce objective evidence confirming the injury. Expert testimony is sometimes necessary. Without this testimony, you will be unable to include the concussion in your case as you did not sustain your injury by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Sufficient evidence helps you to decide whether to settle or try your case.
How Injury Cases Typically Are Resolved
Initially, you need to submit a demand letter to the insurance adjuster. This letter usually includes all the documentation supporting your damages, your legal arguments, and the police report. You also ask for a monetary dollar amount to settle the case. Once reviewed, either the insurance adjuster or defense attorney responds with an offer. At this time, you negotiate and hopefully a settlement is reached. Once settled, a settlement release is signed between the parties. This document releases the defendant from all liability. If you can’t resolve the case, you must proceed to trial.
Personal Injury Trials Differ From Settlements
At trial, both sides present evidence and argue their cases. Remember you must submit enough evidence to prove the case by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Once completed, the trier of fact will determine the outcome. As to the trial process, you pick the jury, give an opening statement, call witnesses, have a closing argument, and give jury instructions. A civil jury trial can last from about three days to three weeks. As to a trial jury, you have the potential to receive more compensation in comparison to settling. There is a sense of justice if the defendant is found guilty in the case. It is, however, more expensive and takes a lot longer to resolve the case. It is more stressful but can be more rewarding. As to settlement, the results are quicker than a trial. It is more efficient, costs less, and is less stressful. A settlement is usually less compensation than you could receive at trial. You decide the settlement amount guided by your attorney. Remember, once settled, you can not go back to the “well” for additional compensation.
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Dennis P. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Georgia
Christopher A. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Michigan