It may surprise you to learn that the vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before going to trial. In fact, it is estimated that up to 95% of all pending lawsuits are resolved prior to reaching a courtroom. When deciding whether an out-of-court settlement is suitable for your situation, it is important to understand what these agreements are, how they are reached, and the pros and cons of not taking your case to trial. A knowledgeable attorney will consider your goals, your ongoing medical care needs, the strength of your case, and more when advising you on your best options for moving forward with your lawsuit.
What Is an Out-of-Court Settlement?
An out-of-court settlement is a negotiated agreement between both parties that ends the dispute without involving formal court proceedings. Because the settlement is accomplished through discussion and negotiation, it provides both parties with opportunities to creatively reach an agreeable solution. However, because both sides must willingly agree to the terms, no one can be forced to accept an out-of-court settlement. But once the settlement agreement is signed, neither side can continue with litigation.
What Are the Four Most Important Things to Remember About Out-of-Court Settlements?
Before you sign a settlement, it is critical to fully understand the legal implications of your agreement. Four facts you should know when considering an out-of-court settlement are:
- Out-of-court settlements have certain advantages: Typically, these settlements can be reached much faster and with less cost than if you went to trial, and a payout is guaranteed when you come to an agreement. For some people, the fact that an out-of-court settlement can be kept private is a plus. You also do not have to go through potentially stressful questioning in court and relive the trauma of your accident.
- Many methods are available to help you reach a settlement: Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to non-litigation techniques for resolving a dispute. There are several different approaches that can be utilized, depending on your situation. Negotiation only involves the two parties involved, while other modes, such as mediation and arbitration, bring in neutral third parties to help facilitate an agreement.
- You may receive less than if the case went to court: One of the most significant downsides to an out-of-court settlement is that you may receive less compensation than if you took the lawsuit to trial. For instance, some damages, such as punitive damages, are only awarded at the end of a court case.
- If you agree to a settlement, you cannot take further legal action: Your settlement is what you receive in return for agreeing to end the litigation. If you have additional expenses later, you cannot come back to renegotiate.
Is an Out-of-Court Settlement Right for You?
Ultimately, this is a question for you and your lawyer to discuss. The answer will depend on the specifics of your case and what you are looking to get out of your lawsuit. For example, if you seek accountability from the defendant, you may want to go to trial, so their actions are part of the public record.
Whether you choose to negotiate a settlement outside of court or not, it is crucial to have a skilled lawyer by your side to support you and ensure you are receiving fair treatment. For a free, no-obligation consultation, call our office at (949) 749-7402.