It’s common for defendants to offer a settlement once a plaintiff files a personal injury claim. If you received a settlement offer, you may be wondering what to do next. Should you settle out of court or take the case to trial?
James Horne Law PA can help you with this decision. Our firm understands the value of a settlement but never hesitates to take a case to trial if we think it’s in your best interest.
The Basics of Settlements
Settlements are voluntary agreements between parties in legal disputes. A settlement agreement is a binding contract that often includes.
- A release of claims,
- Compensation terms,
- Confidentiality clauses, and
- Dispute resolution mechanisms.
Parties can reach a settlement agreement at any point in a dispute. In some cases, a defendant will propose a settlement early to avoid litigation. In others, the parties will settle moments before trial.
Why Do Lawyers Want to Settle Out of Court?
Most personal injury claims end with a settlement. Plaintiffs have many advantages in settling out of court.
Going through a full trial is a long process. It can take years to resolve a dispute, especially if a party appeals. Florida courts receive hundreds of thousands of cases each year. These filings can create a backlog, so you may have to wait until a judge is available to conduct the trial.
Plaintiffs who settle out of court can receive compensation, allowing them to pay for expenses and restore their quality of life.
Trials can be expensive, especially if they involve complex issues. You may need to hire an expert witness to speak about your injuries. Likewise, attorneys will need to bill time and pay for services related to the costs of taking depositions. Lastly, courts charge fees for filing documents and appearing at hearings and trials.
Both parties benefit from the settlement because it can reduce attorneys’ fees and costs.
Privacy and Confidentiality
Parties often agree that their settlement will stay private. They often can’t talk about the terms of the agreement and can’t disparage each other in public. This is a contractual obligation, and violating it can expose them to legal consequences.
Plaintiffs enjoy this confidentiality because it keeps others from knowing the details of their compensation.
Taking a case to trial comes with some uncertainty. It’s hard to predict which side the jury will believe. Even if you win the trial, no one knows how much compensation the jury will award.
When you negotiate a settlement, you can make sure it is on your terms. You have more control over the outcome, reducing much of the uncertainty that comes with trial.
Why Do Some Lawyers Advise Against Settling Out of Court?
While settlements are often helpful, they come with some downsides. Plaintiffs might decide to take a case to trial based on these factors.
Potential for Lower Compensation
Settling out of court often comes with lower compensation than you can receive at trial. Plaintiffs accept this reduced amount because it reduces all uncertainty.
In many cases, there is no cap on how much you can recover at trial. The judge or jury can decide how much compensation you deserve and order the other side to pay. However, there’s also a chance that the court will award you a lower amount than you can receive through a settlement.
Can’t Take More Legal Action
Once a settlement is reached, parties typically agree not to pursue further legal action related to the dispute. This binding agreement ensures finality, preventing either party from reopening the case in court.
In some cases, a plaintiff realizes that their settlement doesn’t provide enough compensation for their damages. They can’t pursue more compensation for these injuries, even if the defendant is liable.
The Public Doesn’t Learn of the Defendant’s Wrongdoing
While confidentiality can keep your compensation private, an out-of-court settlement also prevents public accountability. Defendants often offer settlements to avoid scrutiny and protect their reputation. They admit no wrongdoing, and others never learn about their negligence or bad acts.
Trials are public. Anyone can see what was said in the courtroom and the court’s decision.
Speak with an Attorney Before Accepting a Settlement
Insurance companies often negotiate settlements for personal claims. These companies want to pay as little as possible. They often offer lowball settlements that don’t compensate for your injuries.
You need to have an attorney during this process. They can negotiate with the insurance company and ensure the final offer provides sufficient compensation. And if you can’t reach a proper settlement, your attorney can take your claim to court.
Schedule a Consultation
Don’t settle out of court without having a lawyer present. James Horne can review the facts of your case to give you personalized legal advice. He has helped clients recover millions of dollars in settlements over the last decade and is ready to help you next.
Call today to schedule a confidential consultation.