Many personal injury plaintiffs (i.e. people who were injured due to someone else’s negligent or wrongful act and filed a lawsuit in order to recoup their losses) assume that their claims will ultimately be resolved in court. However, in reality only 4 to 5 percent of personal injury cases in the United States end up going to trial. This means that there is a 95 to 96 percent chance that your personal injury claim will be settled pretrial. Therefore, perhaps the question asked above would better be rephrased to ask; should I accept THIS personal injury settlement offer?
Evaluating a Settlement Offer
Each personal injury case is unique, so step one when evaluating a settlement offer is to determine how much you believe your claim is worth. This should be done with the help of a local personal injury lawyer, especially if you were badly injured and will likely need continued medical care in the future. An experienced attorney will estimate the cost of your past and future medical bills and lost wages, plus any other economic damages that you incurred, assign a dollar amount to any non-economic damages that you suffered (for example, pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.), and add on punitive damages, if appropriate, in order to determine how much your claim is likely “worth”. If the other party offers you this amount, or more, in exchange for settling your claim outside of court, then your attorney will likely advise you to take the settlement offer.
However, it is more likely that the opposing party will respond with a counter offer that is less than what you were hoping for. At this point it is important that you discuss the pros and cons of accepting any offer that is on the table with an attorney and weigh this option against continuing negotiations and the pros and cons of going to court.
The Pros and Cons of Going to Court
Some personal injury plaintiffs can’t wait to having their day in court while others positively dread it. But regardless of your personal preferences, there are a number of other pros and cons that should be considered. Some important factors to keep in mind include:
- A court award may include punitive damages while settlement offers rarely do,
- Jury awards are sometimes much larger than the amount that was offered during settlement negotiations, and
- You get your day in court.
- Going to court is always something of a risk and you may walk away empty handed,
- There are almost always additional costs associated with going to court (for example, court and expert witness), and
- Court documents are public records while settlement details can be kept private.
Need Legal Advice?
If you’re deciding whether or not to accept a settlement offer, or are contemplating filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida, the experienced lawyers at Piccin & Glynn are here to help. We would be happy to evaluate your case and discuss your legal options with you during a free initial consultation, so contact our Ocala office today by calling 352-581-6174.