In movies and television shows, the legal process works something like this: a person hires an attorney and files a lawsuit. Almost immediately after the lawsuit is filed, the parties appear in court for trial. At trial, the lawyers make passionate speeches and object at every turn. After deliberating for a few minutes, the jury returns a multi-million dollar verdict. Roll credits.
Reality is much more complicated.
In real life, very few cases go to trial. Though hard numbers are difficult to collect, most lawyers accept that only 5 to 10 percent of all cases go to trial. In fact, the numbers that are available indicate that perhaps only two percent of cases got to trial. This is far different from the Hollywood portrayal.
Cases that do not go to trial are dismissed or settled. This blog will talk about settlements: what they are, why they can be a good thing, and how a lawyer can help. Read on to learn about Alabama personal injury settlements.
What’s a Settlement?
Put simply, a settlement is a legal agreement between the parties that ends a lawsuit. However, the details of any particular personal injury settlement can be more complex.
For a personal injury plaintiff (the person who files the lawsuit), the goal in a settlement is to get the highest amount of recovery possible. However, the defendant (the person who caused the injury) obviously wants to avoid paying any money. Because the two sides often begin with quite different expectations, they will have to enter into negotiations before settling.
The Settlement Process
The path to an Alabama personal injury settlement begins when one party makes an offer to settle. Usually, the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company will start the negotiations by making the first settlement offer. (Sometimes, they even make an offer before a lawsuit is filed.) The plaintiff can also start the process by sending a demand letter. A demand letter is a formal document that outlines the facts about the accident and your injuries and then asks for payment.
The negotiation process will continue until the parties reach an agreement. The negotiation process can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, though the average time is three to six months.
Once you accept a settlement offer, you will have to sign official paperwork. This paperwork will release all your claims against the defendant. (You will probably also sign documents agreeing to dismiss your case.) You may receive a check on the day that you sign, but if the check is mailed, you may get it a few days or weeks after signing.
How Much Are Alabama Personal Injury Settlements Worth?
Several factors determine the value of Alabama personal injury settlements. The primary factor is the severity of your physical injuries. In general, injuries that are permanent receive higher settlements than those that are merely temporary. Injuries that affect a person’s ability to earn income tend to be more valuable than those that do not. Beyond physical injuries, economic losses, property damage, pain and suffering, and many other considerations can shape the value of a settlement.
The quality of the evidence you use to prove your damages will also shape your settlement. In general, if you have credible witnesses, detailed medical records, and proof that you did not worsen your injuries, you may have the makings of a solid settlement. However, if your witnesses or medical records are in conflict, you may not receive as much compensation.
Why Should I Settle?
Settling may seem like a bad idea, especially if you think that the settlement will cause you to “lose” money. However, settlements have many advantages.
– Settlements Avoid Uncertainty.
Though the “good guys” always win in the movies, the same is not true in real life. Even if you have a great case, a key witness could stumble, evidence could be lost, or you could just get a tough jury. Many people prefer to accept guaranteed settlement instead of rolling the dice on a future they cannot predict.
– Settlements Save Time.
Time is another factor. It takes months to prepare for a trial; complex trials can take weeks. If there are appeals, those could take years to complete. Many people view settlements as the fastest way to get their lives back to normal.
– Settlements Are Private.
Courtrooms are open to everyone. This means that trials are a public affair. The documents and testimony will be available for all to see. On the other hand, settlements allow plaintiffs to keep certain things private.
– Settlements Reduce Stress.
Being injured in a car accident is stressful. Filing a lawsuit is stressful. Dealing with insurance companies is stressful. Sitting through a trial – the most stressful legal event of all – and having to recount the painful details of an accident while under oath will send the average person’s stress level through the roof. Many people settle to avoid the anxiety.
How Can Attorneys Help with Personal Injury Settlements?
Attorneys can help with settlements in many ways.
First, a lawyer can evaluate your case to ensure that any settlement offer is a fair one. In fact, a recent study found that the average self-represented person settled their personal injury case for about $17,600. The same study found that those represented by personal injury attorneys received an average settlement of $77,600 – a. $60,000 difference. Clearly, hiring an attorney makes a difference.
Second, attorneys know the law and are trained to negotiate with other attorneys. For example, as stated above, insurance companies often make settlement offers soon after serious accidents. These offers tend to be very low. Having a lawyer in your corner will make you less susceptible to insurance company tricks.
Third, an attorney can find evidence that will maximize your recovery. Attorneys know where to look to find solid evidence. They can hire experts for your case. They can even force the other side to turn over relevant information that may increase your recovery.
More Questions about Alabama Personal Injury Settlements?
Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of how personal injury settlements operate in Alabama. If you have more questions about this or any other issues, contact Collins Law, LLC. Our team is committed to getting you the compensation you deserve. Call us at (205) 881-0403 or click here to schedule your free consultation.