Victims of personal injury accidents often have many expenses related to the event. Insurance companies must cover the damage caused by their client, but will do all they can to pay as little as possible. The accident victim relies on the legal system for a fair payout through a personal injury claim against the insurer. Filing a legal claim and taking the matter to court often begins with negotiations between the lawyer representing the victim and the insurance company. The result can mean the offer of a personal injury settlement. Before signing any agreement, the injured individual must know how this will affect them.
Why Insurers Want Agreements
Insurers frequently respond to a lawsuit with a settlement offer. A settlement is not an admission or denial of guilt. Insurance companies use this method to end cases sooner and save themselves money. The personal injury lawyer will offer a recommendation, but the choice belongs to the client. After reaching a settlement, the case ends and the insurance company will pay the amount listed in the agreement.
How Settlements Benefit Victims
Personal injury victims file claims because they have expenses related to the accident. People often lose work time, have medical bills, and much more. The U.S. court system strives to hear all cases filed within 18 months of the filing date. Insurance companies may ask to change a court date and delay it further. If the case goes to court and the victim wins, the insurance company may file an appeal or delay the payment. The process could mean waiting one or two years, or longer, to receive the money needed for the costs people have now. Settlements get money into the hands of the victims sooner. It may not be the amount people request, but it ensures the victim receives some compensation. No matter how obvious the case may seem to the victim, no one can guarantee a win in a courtroom. Statistically, plaintiffs have about a 50 percent chance of success.
What People May Lose
People must weigh the benefits of accepting a settlement versus what they would lose by signing the agreement. The risk is the reduction in the payout and how this could affect the victim. An insurer may offer a generous settlement, or they may not. A family can suffer if the victim agrees to an amount that does not cover their costs, or barely meets their needs. People need to ensure they request an amount that will cover their costs now and can help with future expenses if the injuries require long-term or lifelong care. Settlement agreements prevent victims from filing additional lawsuits for the same accident, even if medical expenses related to the injuries require more treatment than expected. People who file claims to make the person responsible for their actions may not receive that closure.
A settlement enables people to have compensation within days or weeks rather than months or years if going to court. No accident victim should accept a settlement offer without speaking to a doctor about possible future medical costs. People should also review all settlement agreements and understand their responsibility based on the details in the release. Settlements benefit many people, but all cases have differences. Everyone should know this is the best choice before they sign any documents.