Most personal injury claims don’t go trial. Instead, they are resolved out of court through a settlement. For that matter, even among those personal injury disputes that do go to trial, many end before reaching a verdict because the parties reach an out-of-court settlement.
Compared to going to trial and verdict, settlements have many advantages. Perhaps most importantly, reaching a settlement is typically faster than going to trial. Whether resolved through mediation or standard negotiation, a settlement tends to involve less stress than a trial, as well. Trials also introduce an element of unavoidable unpredictability that can help or hurt either party. Reaching a settlement gives the parties more control over their outcomes.
However, there are some hidden dangers to watch out for when negotiating a settlement. For one, settlements almost always foreclose the possibility of any future lawsuit against the same defendant involving the same accident. This means if the settlement offer turns out to be insufficient to cover all the injured person’s medical costs, lost wages and other damages, they can’t go back and file suit again to raise the settlement amount. It’s important for the injured and their families to take time to think about their needs before they accept a settlement offer.
A settlement negotiation typically begins with a demand letter, in which the injured party requests that the defendant pay a specified amount to compensate them for the damages they suffered. A skilled lawyer can help clients calculate their damages, including not only the losses they have suffered up to that point, but also projecting them into the future. Many lawyers will ask for a higher amount in a demand letter, with the expectation that the defendant will negotiate the full amount downward.
It’s important to remember that Illinois has a statute of limitations on personal injury claims. Typically, this means the injured party has only two years after the accident in which to make a claim. With this in mind, it is important for the injured and their families to speak to a lawyer about their legal options soon after the accident.