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What is an Out-of-Court Settlement?

Posted in Personal injury on January 23, 2020

After suffering a personal injury in an accident, you can resolve your case in one of two ways: a settlement or a lawsuit. The vast majority of civil cases resolve via out-of-court settlements. A settlement is an agreement you come to with an insurance company to accept a sum of money in exchange for not taking the defendant to court. Settlements are the most common personal injury claim resolutions. Some cases, however, will benefit more from proceeding to court in West Virginia.

Settlement vs. Lawsuit

After you file your initial injury claim with an insurance company, you will wait to hear whether the insurer has accepted or denied your demands. If the company accepts your claim, you will enter into settlement negotiations. These are discussions that occur outside of a courtroom setting, with or without attorneys present. You have the power to negotiate back and forth with the insurance provider until coming to an amount that satisfies your needs. Hiring a West Virginia personal injury attorney to do this for you will generally end in better results, as insurance companies tend to respond better to pressure from attorneys.

If you cannot agree with the insurer on a fair settlement amount, you can file a lawsuit against the defendant instead of settling. Otherwise, you will agree to the amount offered by the insurance company and sign a legally-binding document agreeing to drop your case in exchange for the settlement award discussed. Accepting a settlement will effectively end your case. You will be unable to file an additional claim against the same defendant for the same accident or injury in the future after taking a settlement, even if your condition changes. Make sure the settlement you accept is fair before signing anything.

A lawsuit is an entirely different process from an insurance settlement. Rather than settling matters between just you and the insurance company, a trial involves third parties: namely, judges and juries. You may have to go through arbitration, a discovery phase, depositions, hearings and other court processes. The judge or jury will hear your side of the case as well as the defendant’s during hearings. Your lawyer may hire experts and bring in witnesses to testify on your behalf. Then, the judge or jury will determine the outcome of your case based on the facts and evidence presented.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Settling Out of Court

Most claimants prefer settling out of court to going to trial. However, both methods can have benefits and drawbacks. The right route for you will depend on the success of settlement negotiations, the extent of your injuries and your unique goals for your case. Settling out of court can have pros and cons depending on your claim.

  • Pro: A settlement is cheaper and faster than taking a claim to trial in West Virginia.
  • Con: You may receive less money for your damages in a settlement compared to a trial verdict.
  • Pro: During a settlement, you remain in control of the outcome of your case – not a judge or jury.
  • Con: A settlement remains private, possibly taking away from public awareness of the defendant’s negligence, wrongdoing or injustice.

Settling your injury claim without going to court can mean receiving a check faster than you would during a court trial. Settlements often take around three months to resolve, while a trial can take a year or longer. However, proceeding to court could mean getting maximum compensation for your injuries. A judge or jury may award pain and suffering and punitive damages, for example, while settlements generally do not include these damage types. Work with a personal injury lawyer to determine whether an out-of-court settlement is right for you. Either way, hire a lawyer to represent your best interests.