About 95 percent of all personal injury cases are settled without going to trial. However, you shouldn't necessarily jump to accept the first offer you receive. In some cases, waiting and having your attorney negotiate on your behalf will result in a substantially larger settlement.
Factors to Consider in Evaluating a Settlement Offer
A good settlement offer isn't necessarily one that makes you happy. In fact, many attorneys often tell clients a good settlement is one where both parties walk away unhappy. When this is the case, you know a compromise has been made. The negligent driver paid more than he wanted to, but the injured person received less than he was hoping for.
When determining if the settlement offer you receive is fair, you'll want to consider a number of different variables:
- Past medical expenses, including emergency room care, specialist visits, surgeries, prescriptions, and rehabilitation
- Any applicable future medical expenses
- Loss of wages during your recovery
- The impact your accident will have on your future earning potential
- Property loss
- Emotional distress, including psychological injuries such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD following the accident
- Loss of enjoyment, if your injuries keep you from engaging in sports or other recreational activities you once enjoyed
- Loss of consortium, if your injuries have negatively affected your relationship with your spouse and child
Punitive damages aren't a part of most car accident personal injury cases, but it may be appropriate to ask for this type of compensation if the defendant's conduct is particularly egregious. You might be able to receive punitive damages if the driver had a history of driving while intoxicated, for example.
Liability Questions and Personal Injury Settlements
Louisiana has what's known as a comparative fault rule for assessing personal injury claims. A partially at-fault driver can still collect damages, but his damages will be reduced by his percentage of fault. This means a driver who is considered 25 percent responsible for the accident would only receive 75 percent of the amount he'd originally be entitled to receive.
Since there is no set formula for determining who is at fault in an accident, liability issues should be considered when determining if a settlement offer is fair. If you're a partially at-fault driver, you must consider how your actions would look to a jury if your case went to trial. If the circumstances surrounding the accident are open to interpretation, it may be in your best interests to take the settlement offer and avoid the risk of having a jury come back with a lower than anticipated verdict.
Your attorney can provide some guidance as to how cases with similar circumstances have played out at trial. However, no two cases are alike. Your attorney can make an educated guess as to the results of the trial, but there's still no way to be certain of the outcome.
Considering Your Current Financial Need
Defendants often assume that personal injury plaintiffs can't afford to wait for a verdict. It's common to receive a lower settlement offer early on because the defendant will assume that you're not willing to wait for the case to go to trial.
If you're able to work and your immediate medical needs have been taken care off, declining a settlement and forcing the case to go to trial may result in a higher recovery. However, if you're struggling financially and worried about resolving your debts, you may decide settling for a lesser amount is worth the trade-off. This is an issue to discuss with your attorney as well as your family.
Don't Automatically Accept the First Offer
In many cases, the first offer you receive is a lowball settlement used as a negotiating tactic. How you handle the case from this point is often crucial in your ability to increase your compensation, which is why you want to have a skilled personal injury attorney advocating for your needs.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is committed to help Louisiana residents receive a fair settlement for their auto accident injuries. Call 318-541-8188 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.