Georgia Personal Injury Judgment v. Settlement Four Important Questions
Although every personal injury case is based on unique facts and circumstances, there are certain questions repeatedly raised by individuals who contact our Atlanta personal injury law firm. A common question involves whether an injury victim is better off taking a case to trial or negotiating a settlement. Admittedly, most personal injury cases settle prior to trial, but our attorneys routinely prepare cases for either form of resolution with the same tenacity and diligence to seek the best outcome for our clients. In this blog post, we have provided an overview of four key factors that need to be considered when evaluating whether a case is more appropriate for trial or settlement.
Question 1: What are my chances of prevailing at trial?
The notion that the probability of winning your case is an important consideration might seem obvious, but the probability of success at trial must be considered in the context of a proposed settlement offer. While your damages might provide a basis for seeking more extensive recovery at trial, ambiguous liability issues might make a proposed settlement worth considering. The insurance company might have a legitimate basis to claim that you were partially or entirely at-fault.
Although the other driver might have hit you while running a stop sign, for example, the insurance company might claim that you were speeding. In this case, your speeding might be determined to be a contributing factor in causing the accident or causing you to incur more severe injury. If a judge or jury finds that you are less than fifty percent at-fault, your recovery will be reduced according to the amount of fault assigned to you. When the fault of an injury victim is fifty percent or greater, this generally constitutes a complete bar to recovery.
The insurance company for a negligent party might also have potential defenses such that a risk-reward analysis supports accepting a settlement as opposed to proceeding to trial. If you break your leg playing paintball, for example, you might have signed a waiver prior to engaging in the activity. While a waiver will not always insulate a property owner from liability, the potential impact of the waiver on the lawsuit must be analyzed when considering a settlement offer.
Sometimes personal injury attorneys can provide a rough approximation of the probability of success at trial based on the facts and circumstances. If the probability of prevailing at trial is high, this might merit taking your chances even if the amount of the settlement offer is substantially less than you might be awarded at trial. By contrast, if the probability of winning at trial is fairly low, you might want to take a settlement even if it represents a lot less than a potential jury verdict. Every situation is different. Our Atlanta personal injury lawyers review the probability of victory at trial, potential defenses, proof issues and the range of potential recover, so our clients can make informed decisions.
Question 2: What additional litigation costs will be incurred if the case goes to trial?
While our Atlanta personal injury law firm advances most or all litigation costs associated with a personal injury claim, the expenses will ultimately be paid for from the settlement obtained. This means that the cost of litigation must be considered when making strategic decisions about litigation. The litigation costs of a personal injury claim vary depending on the facts of a particular case, including the severity of the injury. Litigation expenses associated with trial can include deposition fees, filing fees, court reporter fees, expert witness fees and more.
Question 3: How long is the estimated time before the case will make it to trial?
Although the length of time that it takes for a civil lawsuit to make it to trial will depend on the specifics of the case and the jurisdiction where the case has to be filed, most personal injury claims take a year or longer before a trial. Many plaintiffs face financial challenges because their injuries cause a period of disability. Creditors and mortgage lenders do not generally put accounts on hold for many months or even years while injury victims await a personal injury judgment. Further, the value of a dollar today is not the same as a dollar a year from now. These practical financial considerations must be part of the settlement evaluation process. Insurance companies are aware of the financial hardships that personal injury victims experience, so they sometimes drag the process out in the hope of coercing an injury victim into accepting a relatively low settlement. Our experienced personal injury lawyers recognize these tactics, and we use motions and other procedural tools to undermine insurance company attempts to stall the litigation process.
Question 4: How do damages that you can you expect after trial compare to the amount being offered by the defendant or the defendant's insurance company?
While no personal injury attorney has a crystal ball which can be used to guarantee a certain outcome, our lawyers at Montlick and Associates can provide a prediction of the types of damages you might receive. We also provide a general estimate of the value of each of the types of damages in your case. In Georgia personal injury cases, you might be able to seek damages for the following:
- Past and Future Medical Expenses
- Past and Future Lost Income
- Pain and Suffering
- Loss of Consortium (loss of services, comfort and affection of a spouse)
- Permanent Injury
- Punitive Damages
While some of these types of damages can be hard to predict or estimate, such as punitive damages, this form of damages might not be awarded. Some of these damages, such as lost wages and medical bills are fairly clear when evaluating a settlement. The ultimate recovery that might be expected at trial needs to be considered against the risk of a potential defense verdict.
Put Our Law Firm's Over 35 Years of Experience to Work For Your Personal Injury Claim!
Our personal injury attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.