Should You Settle Or Sue After Car Crash?

If you have been injured in a car or truck accident, you will have a lot of questions especially these:

  1. Will I have to go to court?
  2. How much money can I receive?
  3. How long will it take?

This post answers the first question and the other two are addressed in these posts:

How much money is my car accident case worth?

The litigation process

Will my case settle out of court or go to a trial?

There are two ways that someone can collect his or her damages: an insurance company can pay them an agreed amount of money or a jury can award them monetary damages.

Statistics show that about 99% of all injury cases settle outside of the courtroom, usually before a lawsuit is filed.

So the chances of your case settling are excellent. But that answer as well as the amount of money you might receive and the length of time the process may take depend on many factors including the following:

Key information that is needed

  • Your case’s strengths and weaknesses;
  • Your liability facts and vehicle damage;
  • Your chance of winning a trial totally or partially, as negligence is attributed between all drivers and companies involved;
  • Your injuries – are they permanent or temporary, hard tissue or soft tissue, did you have surgery, etc.
  • Your medical expenses – how many are outstanding, were paid, and were written off;
  • Your lost wages, lost job benefits, and lost capacity to earn a living;
  • Your disability, disfigurement, loss of consortium, and other damages;
  • Your financial condition – your need for a quick recovery of money or your ability to wait for a trial;
  • Your desire to go through the usually frustrating and slow court process;
  • Your injury lawyer – his experience, ability, and reputation;
  • Your negotiating ability (if you are trying to represent yourself) and knowledge of legal, insurance, and medical issues;
  • Your goals; and
  • The other driver’s/company’s insurance company insurance policy limits and his/its assets

We at Berenson Injury Law evaluate these and other variables when we first meet with our new clients. We ask if our clients would prefer us to try to get the maximum amount of money from the insurance company or sue. After practicing personal injury law for almost 40 years, Mr. Berenson has never had a client who wanted to go to court if he could avoid it.

Later, we analyze these variables and recommend that our clients take their case to court or accept a settlement offer. We then try to reduce outstanding medical bills and perform other services to make our clients more money.

If you are undecided between entering into settlement negotiations, accepting a settlement offer, and going to a jury trial, we are happy to analyze your car or truck accident in a free no-obligation meeting or phone call.

What is your best choice?

After a collision, your primary goal will be to recover from your injuries. No amount of money can make you feel better. We don’t ever settle our clients’ cases until we know how seriously they are injured and how much their medical bills, lost wages, and other damages are.

Then you want to have your damages repaid in the fastest time with the least amount of stress.

Sometimes settling out of court accomplishes your goals, but other times you need to file suit.

What you lawyer can do to help you

Either way, you need to hire a good personal injury lawyer.

He will investigate how the collision happened, guide you through the process, get you the medical treatment you need, and give you an idea of what similar cases are worth.

He can then make a demand on the other driver’s insurance company and negotiate a settlement. In other cases, you may need to file suit immediately and let a jury decide your damages.

Your lawyer will tell you which is the best course of action.

He will work hard to maximize your damages. Mr. Berenson believes in the old saying that cases that are developed like they are going to trial will settle, while those that are developed like they are going to settle will go to trial.

For example, he is attending an all day mediation tomorrow arising out of a massive truck collision in Fort Worth last year. A lawsuit was quickly filed and multiple claims and cross claims have been filed. There are many serious injuries and substantial medical bills and lost wages that have to be paid by the defendant truck driver’s insurance company. But unfortunately, as in many cases, there is relatively limited insurance policy to pay all damages. This is not a case that could have been settled without a lawsuit being filed and may still end up in front of a jury.

Often after the lawsuit has taken place, the case can be settled to your satisfaction. Filing suit can be a strategic move.

Negotiating a favorable settlement and going to court are two interlinked tools to achieve your goals.

Why do most cases settle?

It is because filing a lawsuit and going to a jury trial have disadvantages.  Sometimes a jury verdict can give the injured person more total money than he might receive from a settlement but many times, the settlement offered is more if expenses are factored in. The only way to find out is to go through the entire process and wait for the jury to make its award.

But trials can be risky and undesirable for all involved.

Mr. Berenson discloses the following information to his clients so they can make a fully informed decision about how to proceed:

  1. Before the trial commences, he and the insurance company’s attorney go through an extensive discovery process. That is usually an intense exchange of information and documents culminating in the taking of multiple depositions. The insurance company often tries to wear down and attack the injured person. For example, it is a common tactic for the insurance company lawyer to pry into the person’s past and make him answer intrusive questions, especially about any previous car accidents or injuries sustained.
  2. Testifying in a deposition and at a trial is incredibly stressful.
  3. It can be nerve-racking to have to wait and wonder what the final outcome will be.
  4. It can take up to one or two years and even longer to reach the final trial. And a favorable verdict can and usually is appealed to a higher court, delaying or even overturning the award.
  5. Lawsuits are expensive. First, the attorney’s fee increases, usually from 33 1/3 % to 40% of the final award. Some attorneys charge even more. Second, expenses for filing the case, getting the other driver served with process, taking depositions, filing affidavits, and paying for a myriad of other expenses can easily cost $5,000 which the plaintiff often foots.

Mathematical comparison between settling and suing

For example, this chart shows you how much more a person could hypothetically receive if he accepts a settlement for $30,000 than if he receives that amount in a jury verdict:

Settlement $30,000.00 Trial Verdict $30,000.00
Attorney’s Fees (1/3)   10,000.00 Attorney’s Fees (40%)   12,000.00
Medical Expenses   8,000.00 (est.) Medical expenses     8,000.00 (est.)
Costs to obtain records, etc.      300.00 (est.)
Costs to file suit, etc.      5,000.00 (est.)
Net to Plaintiff $11,700.00 Net to Plaintiff  $5,000.00

Note that an insurance company almost never pays someone who is not represented by an attorney a large amount of money.

Important questions you should ask your injury attorney

  • How much money do you estimate that I can receive out of court?
  • What do you estimate a jury might award?
  • How much more will the attorney’s fees and expenses be if I file suit?
  • How long will it take to get to trial?
  • How many days will the trial last?
  • What happens after the lawsuit is filed?
  • Will I have to give my deposition? Will I have to testify in court? What is that like?
  • What publicity will be given to my case if I file suit?

When is the best time to try to settle your case?

Claims and lawsuits are completely different and there are different paths each can take. Ultimately, they will end up in the same place: at the settlement table or in the courtroom.

There are at least 10 points at which time this decision can be made:

  1. Soon after the crash – this is always a bad idea. Even if the car accident is minor and you are not very injured, there is no reason to consider this option. You will not be paid anywhere near what you should.
  2. After a demand is sent – this can be a good time for small to moderate claims to be resolved, but you must have a strong case and not be afraid to file a lawsuit if you are lowballed. It can be like a card game and the old Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler” about knowing when to hold them or fold them.
  3. After a lawsuit is filed – the insurance company knows that you are serious. On the other hand, as soon as it retains counsel, you can be sucked into the black hole of litigation where the other lawyer can bill for every phone call, every letter, and hearing and has a built-in incentive not to settle. There are opportunities, including at pretrial conferences, to see if an amicable agreement can be achieved.
  4. At mediation – from our experience, over one-half of lawsuits can be successfully resolved with the help of a good mediator and parties who have accurately appraised their damages and risk exposure. Our firm has been successful at obtaining many good awards with the assistance of the many fine mediators we have here in Fort Worth and Dallas. Courts require mediations, they can narrow the issues even if settlement is not achieved, and there is usually nothing to be lost by participating other than time and the mediator’s fee.
  5. Just before trial – Many cases have settled the day before trial or on the proverbial courthouse steps. An attorney being prepared to try the case can be like playing a game of chicken. The plaintiff’s lawyer has to be ready for trial and has known he may argue the case since he first accepted it.
  6. During trial – Sometimes it is only after the insurance company has seen who the jurors are, heard the opening statements, and seen the visual evidence and witnesses that it realizes that it would be smart to end the dispute. If the trial is going well, the plaintiff’s lawyer will probably not want to settle.
  7. While the jury is deliberating – Other cases finally are resolved after both sides have had a chance to see the case and fear the worst possible outcome.
  8. After the verdict is announced.
  9. After trial but before an appeal – If the plaintiff receives a much larger than expected jury award, the defense can file for a new trial, a reduction of damages, or appeal. That process can be uncertain and lengthy and some plaintiffs will be willing to take less than the jury award to put an end to what has been a long road.
  10. After an appeal is filed.

We can help you

Usually a car or truck wreck case can be successfully settled out of court, either before or after a lawsuit is filed.

The best choice you can make if you have been hurt due to the negligent driving of someone it to hire the best injury lawyer.

Please contact us at 1-885-801-8585 or by clicking here. We will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

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