Personal injury suits can result in outcomes including settlement, trial, dismissal, and appeal. The ALM Legal Dictionary defines the process of settling a lawsuit as resolving the matter without a court judgment through negotiation among the parties. This is achieved through discussions involving the attorneys, insurance company adjusters, and encouragement from the court. The majority of injury cases are resolved before trial in some form of settlement. A settlement is essentially a compromise where both sides make some concessions. A lawsuit is typically pursued when negotiations seem extremely unlikely.
Negotiation With Insurance Adjuster
An insurance adjuster for the at-fault party seeks to resolve claims in a manner that is quick and for the lowest possible cost. The best course of action for the injured party is to retain experienced legal counsel to begin this process. There is the potential for the accident victim, who lacks experience in this area, to make costly mistakes in the negotiation process. A skilled attorney is familiar with insurance company tactics such as delays and opposition. Your attorney may compile comprehensive documentation relating to your claim that includes evidence such as accident reports, statements from witnesses, medical data, and more.
Courts will usually have requirements that parties make reasonable efforts to negotiate some type of settlement to avoid the costs and time involved in a trial. A settlement conference is an opportunity for the parties such as attorneys and insurance company representation to convene to conduct negotiations. They may present potential settlement offers, review damages, and discuss key facts regarding the case.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Settlement conferences may be mediated through ADR. The neutral mediator will seek to be a facilitator between the parties. Another type of ADR is arbitration. Arbitrators, unlike mediators, may be empowered to resolve a dispute. When the arbitrator is assigned to make a ruling in the case, the process is considered binding arbitration. These meetings may involve the usage of witnesses. The Colorado rules require some type of conference involving the parties within 14 days after the actions begin. There was a period prior to 1991 in Colorado where arbitration was mandatory in many cases.
Damages During Negotiations
Often settlement negotiations take significant time. During this time, it is important that the injured party continue to log documentation regarding their losses. Over time, it is possible that additional impairments may emerge, or the party may continue to lose wages from being unable to work. This documentation is critical, as the opposing insurance company will generally need updated knowledge of the extent of damages.
Rejected Settlement Offers
Sessions where negotiations occur are generally beneficial for the parties involved. For example, even if your attorney is unable to initially reach a settlement, valuable information may be obtained such as potential defenses that are likely to be employed or some rough estimates for the range of a monetary settlement. When settlement offers made in writing within 14 days of trial are rejected by a party, if the ultimate final award does not exceed that monetary offer, the party may be penalized by paying costs.
The insurance company for the at-fault party has no interest in settling a claim for the maximum amount that the plaintiff deserves. Instead, they are motivated to minimize the financial impact. One negotiation strategy the injured party may use is to initially pursue a higher monetary amount that allows for room to negotiate lower. When parties are able to reach an amicable settlement, the solution must be placed in writing for approval. The signed agreement can then be presented to the court for them to make the order.
In cases where it seems apparent that the injured victim was harmed as a result of the defendant's negligence, parties who lack legal representation may be susceptible to ending up with inadequate results. An experienced personal injury attorney has the knowledge of how to interact with opposing insurance company representation and create strategic advantages. An attorney has the motivation to work on your behalf to resolve the matter for the maximum compensation without unnecessary delay.