Settlements: What Should Accident Victims Expect?
After becoming involved in an accident such as a motorcycle accident, helicopter accident, or a collision due to the negligence of a truck driver who failed to appropriately operate the vehicle, victims who sustain serious injuries as a result could be entitled to compensation and damages–with the right legal experts on their side. This compensation can be obtained on behalf of a client through several methods of litigation, several of which we’ll explain in-depth in this article.
The most commonly used method of Alternative Dispute Resolution is that of mediation. During mediation, a board certified civil trial lawyer will use their years of experience in both the courtroom and in the office to reach an agreement with the opposing party on the amount of compensation that’s fair in regard to their client’s serious injuries. This agreement, and the compensation it provides, is known as a settlement.
Personal injury related litigation such as the specific practice of trucking accident law are normally filed in a civil court of law and on the victim’s behalf, their trucking lawyer, knowing the ins and outs of the law will seek compensation (as well as damages if the victim is so entitled) to compensate their client for any pain and suffering they sustained as a result of their accident.
Not every case will go to trial… and that’s OK!
The most experienced lawyers prefer a different route to obtaining compensation on behalf of their clients who have sustained injuries as a result of a negligent trucking operator: settlement via mediation. Settlements using the mediation method of Alternative Dispute Resolution is one of a several time and cost-efficient ways of assisting both parties (the “plaintiff”, or the injured party and the “defendant”, the party responsible for the accident) in reaching an agreement that is satisfactory to both sides and keeps the litigation from needing to be heard by a judge at trial.
An alternative to the courtroom
It’s often possible a settlement agreement that is fair to the injured party can be reached when both parties lawyers are able come to an agreement on a just dollar amount outside of a courtroom. On many occasions, settlements are, well, “settled” upon using the tried and true method of alternative dispute resolution or “ADR”.
Lawyer favored methods of “ADR” normally called used in an effort not to take a case to trial:
It’s not always judge and jury
Both mediation and negotiation are not mutually exclusive or binding methods of reaching a monetary offer that’s fair and just in regard to the injuries sustained by a victim. Another method, arbitration, is a legally binding form of alternative dispute resolution and replaces the need for a civil trial. However, arbitration is seen by more experienced, senior civil trial lawyers as an unfair practice that doesn’t provide an accident victim with the fairness of either mediation or courtroom litigation. Simply put, the country’s top lawyers do not prefer to use this method of Alternative Dispute Resolution, because it does not provide a fair outcome for a client who will suffer for the rest of their life from serious injuries.
Usually, trucking-related accident cases are resolved through litigation, due to the severity of the injuries sustained in these types of accidents. Occasionally, either mediation or negotiation methods of ADR are attempted in an effort to reach a satisfactory settlement before a trial is deemed necessary. The process of Alternative Dispute Resolution can be applied even while the case is waiting to be heard by a judge, and can potentially be resolved the morning of trial, if both parties decide not to drag on the legal process longer than necessary and a fair, justified settlement can be reached for those who suffered injuries.
Settlement can provide the most benefit to the client
Top litigation experts agree that being able to reach a settlement agreement on behalf of their clients is ideal for everyone involved. The money saved, as well as the time, allowing the injured party to return to the recovery process with financial stability behind them is something that appeals to client and lawyer alike. An experienced lawyer wants to help their client on both the legal side, and on the medical side; the long road to recovery, often slowed by financial strain placed upon them.
Using the mediation method of ADR, lawyers for both parties are able to discuss the facts of the case in a clear cut, straightforward manner ask their questions, and state their opposing opinions on the question of compensation in an environment that is less emotionally charged than that of a courtroom.
Using ADR, lawyers are also able to regulate how much of their legal stance is provided to the opposing party on behalf of their client. Using a mediator ensures receiving valuable, unbiased insight from a neutral third party that can make reasonable suggestions in settlement negotiations and speed up the process of either agreeing on a dollar amount or the lawyers for both parties agreeing that a trial will be necessary under the circumstances.
Lawyers need facts, not falsehoods
In a great many cases settlement is preferred. However, a lawyer will advise their client of what goes into reaching a settlement and what that means for them, as well as their loved ones, after their case has settled. In order to receive the best, most substantial advice from a lawyer, it’s important to be credible. When speaking with a lawyer during the consultation phase of the case, it’s important not to exaggerate injuries or tell a story one thinks the lawyer may want to hear in order to “force” them to take the case. Lying and lacking credibility can instantly kill a case before it can ever get in front of the judge.
Some of the things a lawyer may advise a credible client on:
- There are instances where the client must agree to no longer pursue further legal against the defendant, should a settlement be reached during mediation; this will be up to lawyer and client to discuss thoroughly, as it’s a big decision to be made and is permanent.
- Settling means the plaintiff relinquishes the right to hold the defendant liable for their negligence in front of a judge and jury at a later date, as they’ve agreed upon a dollar amount.
- The client may have to forfeit the right to a trial once a settlement is reached.
- Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all tell a story; a client claiming severe back pain, only to post photos and videos of themselves dancing at the club or working out at the gym on social media can kill a case. A lawyer will advise their client to refrain from excessive (or any) social media posts during the course of litigation, if they feel it can compromise the case. This is in the client’s best interest and should be heeded.
Not just the commercial song and dance
We’ve all seen the overly exaggerated TV commercials, but there is real truth behind the dancing, singing men and women talking about “structured” and “lump-sum” settlements (and it’s true, those injured in accidents may need “cash now”, but each personal injury claim is different and cannot be resolved overnight). The truth of what a settlement means for a client often gets lost in the song and dance of silly commercials. That’s why here on the Law Resource Blog, we do away with the song and dance and provide only the facts our readers need to know quickly.
There are two important points to note about the basic types of settlements normally offered when a dollar amount is reached:
- Lump-sum settlement: a settlement that is paid all at once; at the conclusion of mediation or negotiation, a lawyer will have come to an agreement with the opposing party and the amount of compensation that’s been agreed to will be paid to the victim in one large payment. This type of settlement allows for massive debt incurred due to lost wages and medical expenses to be fully paid off if necessary.
- Structured settlement: client and attorney may confer and then agree that receiving money paid in regular installments over a period of time is what’s best, if the client has another source of income or simply prefers to receive monthly installments to better budget their finances.
The last thing to note is that settlements are subject to being taxed according to how they are classified, and each state differs. The choices a client makes with their board certified civil trial lawyer can affect the end result of the money client walks away with both after taxes and through credibility and truthfulness. It’s important to fully understand the terms of any settlement reached; that’s why the lawyer is there, and can answer any questions their client may be unsure of the answers to.
Remember: be honest, be credible. One little lie can kill a case, but telling the truth can only serve to provide justice after a serious accident.