Sometimes in the news, you’ll see massive personal injury lawsuits make the headlines with astronomical verdicts. Just recently in Illinois, for instance, a woman received nearly $150 million in damages after being paralyzed by a falling pedestrian shelter at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Or you might remember the woman who sued McDonalds for burns received from spilt coffee and won $640,000 in damages.
Other cases have gone even higher, with juries awarding plaintiffs billions in damages for pain, suffering, medical expenses, lost income, and (most substantially) punitive damages.
While these cases are the ones that make the headlines, jury verdicts in personal injury claims are actually fairly rare. More often than not, plaintiffs and defendants will settle outside of court. Here, we’ll go over how this typically occurs.
Starting the Process
All personal injury cases begin with meeting with your attorney. It’s important to choose a lawyer with experience in personal injury cases, particularly those in a similar vein to your case. For instance, if you were injured by a hazard on someone else’s property, you would want a premises liability lawyer.
Your attorney will assess your claim and determine if it’s viable. If it looks like you have a case, you’ll begin the process of either filing the lawsuit or demanding a settlement.
Reaching a Settlement
Often, your attorney will contact the defendant’s lawyer and request a settlement for the case, i.e. you’ll agree to cease pursuing legal action against them in exchange for an agreed upon amount. Alternatively, the defendant may request a settlement rather than go to court.
Settling, in many cases, is preferable to going to court for both parties simply because settling is less expensive and time consuming and far more predictable. Both sides avoid unwanted publicity, and you don’t have to go through the lengthy discovery process involved prior to trials.
- When deciding to settle, your attorney will assess the following:
- How much your case is worth
- How much you’d be likely to receive in damages for your claim
- The strength of your evidence versus that of the defendant
- Difficulties that may arise in trying the case
- Outcomes of similar cases
- Limitations on the defendant’s resources or insurance coverage
In very few cases is it worthwhile to continue pressing charges when you can settle for a favorable amount, especially since you might not even win a court trial.
Going to Court
There are some (rare) instances in which your case will proceed to court. This may occur if the defendant offers you too little to drop the case or if they simply refuse to negotiate.
If court proceedings are imminent, you will continue with the paperwork and motions needed to begin a trial. From there, a jury will be selected, you’ll have your court hearing, and either the judge or the jury will make a decision about your case.
Again, the vast majority of personal injury claims are resolved out of court, but if yours is not, you will need to be represented by a skilled lawyer if you hope to succeed. Even if you intend to settle, the assistance of your attorney is crucial to getting favorable terms.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Hart David Carson, LLP, today.