Personal Injury Settlements Can Be a Good Decision: An Alternative Viewpoint
By Gerri Elder
We at Total injury recently covered the subject of early settlements in personal injury cases, showing how from a business owner's point of view, settlements make sense for many reasons: the lawsuit is dropped along with any potential criminal convictions or jury awards, the legal process ends quickly and the company often saves a bundle in the process.
We profiled a recent study published in the Columbia Business Law Review that showed how businesses save on average $670,000 in settlements for severe personal injuries. That's a major amount of money that the consumer is potentially giving up just for settling early.
But we also mentioned in passing in the article that sometimes it does make sense for a plaintiff who has suffered a personal injury to agree to a settlement early on, and we'd like to provide this alternative perspective on the earlier article by following up on that statement.
The answer to whether or not it makes sense to agree to a settlement, of course, depends on your case and a variety of other personal factors. A personal injury attorney can be the best resource in looking at the facts of your case and determining the best course of action to give you the best chance of gaining compensation for your injuries.
However, there are some concepts and approaches that you may want to know about settlements.
A recent study in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies takes a look at civil lawsuits (including personal injury lawsuits, medical malpractice lawsuits and other lawsuits) to determine how often plaintiffs filing personal injury lawsuits went to trial when they would have received more in compensation by taking a settlement to resolve the lawsuit.
The study found that in a majority of cases, turning down settlements and going to trial ended up costing plaintiffs money.
In fact, plaintiffs were calculated to have won less money in trial than they could have received in a settlement approximately 61 percent of the time. Defendants named in lawsuits, on the other hand, were only wrong to go to trial 24 percent of the time.
However, these percentages hide an important fact about the difference in potential monetary losses: plaintiffs who ended up losing money when going to trial saw their compensation amount lower by $43,000; defendants who wrongful decided to go to trial lost an average of $1.1 million.
This major difference shows that some plaintiffs thought it might have been worth the risk of going to trial for the potential to gain a much larger amount than the settlement amount: after all, when the defendants are wrong, they're wrong in a big way.
But that also underscores an important fact about trials: they can be unpredictable. One reason why many personal injury victims choose to accept a settlement amount is the certainty that a settlement brings, as opposed to the anxiety that can come from not knowing whether or not you will be adequately compensated at trial.
Of course, there are many other personal factors that could convince an attorney and/or client that taking a settlement offer makes sense. Sometimes the facts of the case may not be persuasive enough to warrant going to trial, or the personal injury victim may want to avoid trial-and its stresses-enough to take a reasonable offer. Especially if the case involves a tragedy such as a wrongful death, the persons involved may not want to relive the tragedy as lawyers pore over the minutiae of the case.
Whatever the situation, however, you can be sure that a personal injury lawyer has seen the various options available, and will work with you to gain compensation to help pay for medical bills and give you certainty in a stressful time, whether that means a settlement or a trial for your personal injury case.