If you are suing a company for an injury sustained while at work or using their product, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a personal injury settlement. In exchange for dropping the case and admitting liability, the company will provide you with a significant financial settlement to cover medical costs and lost income. Many personal injury settlements are used to purchase structured settlements, which can provide income for your family even after your death.
Personal injury settlements carry a somewhat negative undertone — perhaps they’ve gotten a bad rap.
For a better understanding, particularly what it means for those involved, let us look at what a personal injury is and see how and where the settlement comes into play.
Unlike an injury caused to one’s property, personal injuries damage the physical, mental or emotional outlook of a person. Common types of personal injury claims include traffic accidents, trip and fall claims and product defects that result in injury. The most abundant are automobile accidents — more than six million accidents are recorded annually. On average, there is one accident every 10 seconds. Unfortunately, it is estimated that this number will continue to grow given the multitude of distractions drivers now face.
Regardless of the reasons for the personal injury, negligence must be proved. The process, in some cases, can be a cut and dry.
When an insurance company acknowledges their insured client as the one at fault, then an injury settlement is more easily attained. While these situations happen, keep in mind that fault is not so easily determined.
Receiving a Personal Injury Settlement
Because only a small portion of cases actually reach a courtroom — 4 to 5 percent — most are settled out of court. What does that mean? Instead of spending time and resources bringing a personal injury suit to trial, the involved parties (usually the lawyers for the plaintiff and defendant) will reach a monetary agreement of compensation. The injured party must agree to the defense attorney’s offer, settling the case.
The plaintiff is usually rewarded this offer in the form of a structured settlement. These payments are distributed through annual or monthly payments. The plaintiff must bear in mind that once you have accepted an offer, there is rarely an option for a change of heart. Make sure you and your team has fully explored the long-term significance of your injuries, and that the offer you are willing to accept allocates funds properly for possible future expenses.
What to Do with Your Settlement
Monetary compensation is an amount of money given to help those who have been financially burdened by the negligence of another person or entity. It is important to remember these settlements are there to make one “whole” again. The end result is not to put the plaintiff in a better financial position, but to give them resources to reimburse themselves for out-of-pocket expenses they may have accrued, as well as future expenses, as a result of the incident. Make sure to properly explore payment options relating to your settlement.
Once an injury has occurred it is imperative to contact an attorney as soon as you can, this way the proper documentation of treatments, procedures or surgeries can begin immediately.
Predicting future and long-term ailments is just as important, if not more important, than receiving settlement for treatment already performed. Treatments, such as physical therapy and chiropractic visits, can continue for years or a lifetime after an injury.
Keep these factors in mind when deciding on a proper settlement and value:
- Medical bills accumulated
- Length of medical treatment
- Amount of lost income
- Long-term treatment or post-accident treatment
- Receiving a long-term diagnosis
- Possible pain and suffering damages
Most personal injury cases are settled out-of-court, but when does the actual ball get rolling on these types of cases?
Once the plaintiff has formally filed the lawsuit, which occurs after they received medical attention from a professional, negotiations will not begin until the defense attorney is given adequate time to perform all pretrial explorations and research.
The magnitude of the injury case determines how the rest of the suit will progress. In smaller instances, the two opposing lawyers will simply negotiate back and forth until the plaintiff chooses to accept an offer from the defense.
In many of these cases, the defense is representing an insurance company. If the insurance company does not feel ready to begin earnest settlement discussions, then the case will be at a standstill. But have no fear: Your attorney should know this often is a good thing.
Defense lawyers or insurance companies use this strategy to test the plaintiff’s willingness to settle. You do not want to seem too eager because they will most likely lower their offer. Every case is different, and getting your hands on the money can take some time.
So hold tight. Patience isn’t just a virtue; it can also be the key to receiving a fair and just settlement.