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Securing a Large Personal Injury Settlement: Is it Possible?

Oct 31, 2022 - Personal Injury, Tuscaloosa by

If you’ve been injured due to the fault of another person or entity, then you may be entitled to recover damages as compensation for your various injuries, pursuant to Alabama law.  It’s important to note, however, that even if your claims are legitimate, your case will not necessarily proceed all the way through to trial.  In fact, industry observers estimate that about 90-95% of all personal injury lawsuits never go to trial.  Instead, the parties reach a settlement compromise that is satisfactory for all parties given the evidence and the circumstances of the case.

A settlement is simply an offer to reach an agreement that will resolve all outstanding claims and issues between the parties involved in litigation.  In injury litigation, when parties reach a settlement, they agree to relinquish their claims in exchange for something of value — perhaps damages or a promise of some sort.  Settlements are perhaps best understood through practical, real-world examples, so let’s take a brief look at an example to help clarify the role of a settlement compromise in a personal injury lawsuit.

Suppose you are injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a speeding defendant.  You file a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, claiming $100,000 in damages.  As litigation proceeds, you and the defendant will bring forth evidence, request information disclosures, and will identify important witnesses. Experts may be brought in to reconstruct the accident or otherwise make statements regarding medical treatment, design, etc.  All of this may happen before a trial date is even set!  With so much information available before trial, you and the defendant may decide that a trial is unnecessary and that a reasonable settlement compromise can be reached.

Simply put, settlements are a way for parties to privately agree on a reasonable solution to the lawsuit.  Settlements are both competitive and collaborative in nature.  The parties may jostle for positioning, but ultimately, they must agree if a settlement is to be reached.  By comparison, the litigation process at trial is entirely competitive in nature.

Reaching a Settlement is Usually Preferred

Why do most cases settle?  The fact that parties choose to settle as opposed to litigating can be confusing for those who are unfamiliar with the process of litigation, but the reality is that settlements are a very cost-effective way to come to a satisfactory resolution that benefits both parties.

Fundamentally, a trial is best avoided because it introduces additional costs — time, finances, and effort — to the litigation process.  A legal dispute need not necessarily be resolved at trial.  If the parties can arrive at a reasonable settlement compromise, potential delays and costs can be avoided, resulting in a win-win for all involved. 

It’s also worth noting that a trial is inherently risky for both parties.  When a lawsuit is filed, each party may feel more or less confident about their case depending on the evidence, applicable statutory and case law, and the strength of their legal strategy.  Even a confident party is unlikely to be 100 percent certain about their success at trial.  Negotiating a settlement compromise allows parties to circumvent the inherent risk typical of trial.  When a settlement compromise is in the process of being negotiated, each party weighs the overall strength of their case, the damages amount that they’re asserting, and the chance of success at trial.  The final settlement should reflect a reasonable estimation of the value of the case given these (admittedly uncertain) factors.

How is Settlement Value Determined?

Settlement value can vary substantially, depending on a number of factors.  To understand how a settlement value is reached, let’s revisit our first example with the motor vehicle accident purportedly caused by the speeding defendant.  Remember, as the injured party in the motor vehicle accident case, you are claiming that you are entitled to damages of $100,000 for your injuries.

If both parties were to agree that you had a 100 percent chance of success at trial and that the damages claim is perfectly reasonable, then the case could settle for the full, unmodified amount — $100,000.  In real-world lawsuits, however, there is almost never a predictable 100% success rate.

For example, suppose that the defendant believes that they could effectively argue at trial that you caused your own injuries due to distracted driving and that the defendant was not the proximate cause of your injuries. You disagree, but the defendant could make a strong argument. As such, the chance of success shifts drastically. In an ideal world, you would have a 100 percent chance of success; however, in real-world conditions, you may have only a 70 percent chance of successfully recovering your damages (the $100,000 amount). A fair settlement compromise would have to account for this chance of success were the case to go to trial. As such, you might be able to reach a settlement agreement awarding you $70,000 instead of the full $100,000.

Bear in mind that any factor influencing the chance of success at trial, or the damage amount, will affect your settlement compromise.  The higher the likelihood of your success at trial and the less disagreeable your damage claim, the more likely it is that your settlement value will reflect your ideal recovery.  As such, your ability to obtain a favorable settlement will hinge on the strength of your injury claim and how convincingly your attorney can demonstrate that your case would succeed if it were to proceed to trial.

Speak with a Tuscaloosa Injury Attorney to Learn More About Your Settlement Possibilities

As always, we encourage any client who has been injured by a defendant’s negligent actions to seek legal guidance from a skilled injury attorney as soon as possible. All cases are different, so it is important to determine whether a settlement or taking your case to trial will be the most beneficial for you and your family. Contact our office today to learn how we can help resolve your case.

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