Is it a Good Idea to Accept a Settlement Without Talking to a Lawyer?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Richard Richardson with Siegal & Richardson.
A settlement offer refers to any offer made to resolve a dispute of some kind. In litigation, an injured party may receive a settlement offer from the liable party to compensate their damages in order to avoid taking the case to court where additional legal fees are likely to apply. Deciding whether or not to take a settlement can be daunting; depending on the type and severity of the damages being compensated, it might be important to consult a lawyer before accepting a settlement offer.
While minor accidents and injuries may not require as comprehensive of a settlement, damages that are likely to affect the plaintiff and their family far into the future require a thoroughly compiled and adequate settlement. It is not uncommon for someone to accept a settlement offer only to find that they run out of money to cover their damages several years down the road. Experienced personal injury attorneys may be able to identify and predict damages the average person cannot, and can make sure those damages are compensated fairly in a settlement offer.
There is nothing inherently wrong with settling out of court.
Settling out of court can be a viable alternative to taking a court to trial, and has the added benefit of typically concluding faster than the trial process. However, settlement offers may be made to people who do not have legal representation, whereas people typically hire lawyers before going to court. This means that people considering settlement offers might not have the same protection on their side.
The good news is that as long as the settlement offer has not been officially accepted, it’s not too late to run it by a lawyer first. If the settlement is fair, an attorney will likely not advise you to take the matter to court. However, if they identify one or more serious damages that the settlement does not compensate for, this should be noted, negotiated for, and possibly taken to court if not met.
Some damages are important enough to take the case to court.
While a settlement offered for a relatively minor car accident might not be worth the stress of taking the case all the way to trial, whenever significant and/or long-term damages exist, it might be worth it. For example, if an injury sustained is likely to turn into a long-term or permanent disability, affect daily life, or result in medical or therapy bills further down the road, these expenses should be accounted for in an adequate settlement offer; for someone who is left unable to walk after an accident, not only should their ongoing medical bill be included in the settlement offer, but the cost of a wheelchair and future wheelchair replacements as well. These are just a few examples of the specific kinds of damages that could be passed over in the first settlement offer, which an experienced attorney might be able to point out right away. The good news for personal injury cases is that most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and work on contingency; this means that if someone does choose to hire an attorney, they will not have to pay for their services unless and until they win their case or reach a successful settlement.
To learn more about settlements versus going to trial, or to discuss a settlement offer made to you and your family, reach out to a personal injury attorney in your area.