Understanding Settlement Offers and Trials //
Unlike movies and television, where all cases go to court, most real-life lawsuits settle before trial. The settlement process begins when you finish receiving medical care or your doctor has determined the nature, severity, and duration of your injuries.
Once you and your lawyer understand how your condition affects you – now and in the future – your legal team will work to calculate special damages or economic losses. These damages include medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, property damage, and even funeral and burial expenses. In addition to accounting for your past economic losses, your attorney will estimate any losses you may face in the future. For example, consider you have already spent weeks in the hospital, and your doctor prescribes 2 years of weekly physical therapy. Special damages should pay for your hospital bills and all costs related to your next 2 years of physical therapy.
The next step is calculating general damages or non-economic losses. These damages include losses that are harder to measure, including:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Humiliation and embarrassment
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of society and companionship
- And more
Although no amount of money can change or properly account for these losses, financial security can bring comfort and mitigate stress during a difficult time.
Making Sure Your Claim Is Reasonable
Before demanding all the damages you calculated, you and your attorney will need to take a hard look at the facts of your case. If there is more than one defendant, you may need to decide who is responsible for which damages. If you are in any way at-fault for the accident or failed to mitigate damages by delaying medical treatment, you may need to account for this liability in your demand. You should also consider factors that may come into play during your trial, such as where your case would be tried and how a jury might respond to you.
Sending a Demand Letter
After evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your case and adjusting the value of your claim, your attorney will send the defendant a demand letter. In this document, your lawyer will outline your damages and ask for the compensation you deserve. Usually, the defendant will make an offer to avoid the risk and expenses associated with going to trial.
From there, your lawyer can help you negotiate a fair settlement and resolve your case.
Going to Court
If you and the defendant cannot agree on a settlement, your case will go to trial. Luckily, your legal team has had the possibility in mind from day one. Trials begin with a discovery phase, where both sides share information they have about the case. Sometimes, attorneys also host depositions, which means you may have to give sworn, out-of-court oral testimony to opposing counsel.
When both sides have all information, they can begin creating their arguments. At trial, they will present these arguments in court – in front of a judge and/or jury.
These fact-finders will decide the amount of the plaintiff’s award. Still, a settlement can happen at any time. Sometimes, defendants choose to settle in the middle of a trial.
Legal action is far from the first step of a personal injury case. If you’ve been harmed in an accident, seek medical treatment immediately. When you feel up to it, call an attorney to discuss your case. Keep in mind that the settlement process may not begin until your doctor is ready to assess your condition or make a plan for long-term treatment.
At the Law Offices of James A. Welcome, we offer free consultations and have your best interests in mind.
Call us at (203) 806-7922 or contact us online for answers to all your case-specific questions.