Is It Better to Settle Your Phoenix, AZ Personal Injury Claim or to Go to Court?
There’s a good reason why 96% of personal injury cases settle out of court. Settlement works and is often more favorable to plaintiffs than attempting to litigate. Yet as with most legal matters, much depends on the specific facts of your case.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is a good settlement offer?
A “good” settlement offer will:
- Cover the full amount of your medical bills.
- Cover the full amount of your lost wages.
- Cover any ongoing medical care you’re likely to receive.
- Provide you with an income if you’re unable to work.
- Fairly compensate you for your pain and suffering.
Often it’s impossible to come up with an exact figure until you’ve reached a state known as maximum medical improvement. That is: you’re as healed as you’re going to get. That’s the only way to know how much your medical bills were, and it’s the only way to know how much long-term care you’ll need. It’s the only way to know if you’ll be able to work again, too, and in what capacity.
Should you accept the first settlement offer?
The first offer is almost always a “lowball” offer from the insurance company. They’re hoping you’ll take the money and run before speaking to an attorney. Once you take the money, you can’t press for more.
The first offer might be quite a bit more serious if you have an attorney. Insurance companies know you don’t have experience with these kinds of cases, and know that the little they offer might seem like a lot to you at first. They know they’re not offering enough to meet your expenses, but they also don’t care. Their job is to pay out as little as possible.
When you have an attorney they know you’ve got an advocate who understands what a fair settlement looks like. This can change the tone of the conversation quite a bit.
What happens if you don’t accept a settlement?
If you reject that first, initial settlement and retain an attorney then the case will enter a discovery period. Both sides will be gathering evidence and witnesses. Both will be trying to build the strongest possible case.
Eventually the attorney will enter into a settlement conference, where they’ll use the facts of the case, and the history of similar cases here in the Phoenix area, to hammer out what a fair settlement offer might look like.
Attorneys can settle, and you can accept an offer, at any point before the conclusion of a trial. Setting a court date doesn’t always mean the end of the settlement process.
What are the advantages of settlement over trial?
The biggest advantage is this: you get a lot more control during the settlement process. Trials are unpredictable. Juries don’t always go the way we’d like them to go. Judges don’t always rule the way we’d like them to rule…even if you have the best attorney in the world.
Settlement is also a lot faster. Backlogs in the courts can mean waiting a long time before a trial date. Trials can drag on for a great deal of time, and all of that can delay the amount of time it takes to get you paid.
When should you take your case to trial?
Sometimes, for whatever reason, insurance companies don’t want to negotiate. Maybe they’re afraid of setting a precedent. Maybe they strongly believe you were highly negligent as well, to the point where they think they can reduce the amount they’d pay by a significant margin by pushing the matter to trial.
Sometimes they’re just trying to outwait you: pushing negotiations until the statute of limitations runs out. At that point, we might have to push the matter to trial just to preserve your right to collect at all
Your attorney will always go over your options based on the facts of your case and will advise you on what’s going to be the best move for your specific case.