When people think about lawyers and personal injury cases, they most likely imagine a courtroom scene. The personal injury lawyer engages in a gripping cross examination and provides a spectacular closing argument. The jury, swayed by the attorney’s well thought out arguments, awards the client millions of dollars.
Most cases don’t actually go to trial. This can be attributed to the rigorous process of a personal injury lawyer taking a case from initial consultation to case resolution. Understanding this process illustrates why personal injury lawyers settle cases.
Personal Injury and Case Evaluation
Case evaluation begins when a personal injury lawyer first meets with a client. If the lawyer believes a claim has merit, they take on the case. Case evaluation continues as the lawyer reviews any relevant reports, which may include:
- Accident reports;
- Medical records;
- Surveillance tapes;
- Statements of witnesses;
- Expert opinions; and
- Any other evidence relevant to the case.
All evidence is both reviewed and evaluated. The lawyer looks for both consistencies and inconsistencies which may support or negate any element of the claim. The nature and extent of the injury, as well as the evidence which supports or negates the liability of those being sued are considered in coming up with what the lawyer believes will be a fair settlement amount. Settlement amounts take into consideration past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and, in certain cases, punitive damages.
Personal Injury and Negotiated Settlement
Most personal injury cases resolve through negotiation. The lawyer for the injured party negotiates with the lawyer for the person who caused the injury. The strength of each side’s case impacts negotiations. For example, if all the witnesses, and the surveillance tape, both establish the injured party was hit by a car running a red light, this strengthens the personal injury claim. On the other hand, if the witnesses offer conflicting statements about the color of the traffic light, and there is no surveillance tape, this may result in a weaker case – which could result in a lower settlement. The purpose of negotiation is to come up with a satisfactory amount of money that fairly compensates the injured party given all the facts and circumstances.
Why Settle When A Jury Might Award More Money?
There is always a possibility a jury would value pain and suffering in a greater amount than the settlement offer. So why settle at all? First, because just as there is a possibility a jury may award more money, there is also a possibility the jury will award less money than the settlement offer. Additionally, by settling the case, the parties have finality. Unlike settlement, jury verdicts are subject to appeal. This can add years to the process. Settlements, on the other hand, are rarely appeal able. Consequently, once negotiated and settled, all parties enjoy the certainty final resolution brings.
Further, most people are unfamiliar with the trial process. While lawyers routinely appear in court, injured people generally do not. Trials are stressful, time-consuming, and carry with them a great deal of uncertainty. Finally, trials unfold in open court, with a complete record of all testimony. This testimony often includes personal details of the injured person’s life and circumstances, both before and after the injury. Settlement awards are often public, but the details which led to the settlement generally are not.
Looking for a Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you have been injured, you need a personal injury lawyer capable of both negotiation and litigation. At Kinnaird & Kinnaird, P.C., our personal injury lawyers rely on their years of experience when evaluating personal injury claims. Let our experience work for you. Contact us today to see how we can help you with your case.