A personal injury lawsuit will usually have one of two outcomes: You settle with the defendant if they agree to what you need to be made whole, or you go to court and get a verdict. If you are reading this, you might be considering your options between a settlement offer or taking your case to trial.
Here are a few things to consider regarding the differences between a New York personal injury settlement and taking your case to trial.
What Is a New York Personal Injury Settlement?
When the injured party and the party responsible for the injury agree on a set amount of money to cover the injured party's needs, they can enter into a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is structured by the injured party's attorney and the attorney representing the defendant.
To get to a New York personal injury settlement, the injured party's lawyer performs many tasks pertaining to the case, including but not limited to:
- Collecting evidence
- Taking witness statements
- Discussing the case with expert witnesses (if applicable)
- Working with internal legal personnel to build the best case possible
- Drafting appropriate motions and other legal documents
- Negotiating with the opposing party's insurance company
Once a case gets built, the plaintiff's attorney will send a demand letter to the insurance company outlining the claims and asking for a specific amount of money. The insurance company's lawyers will recommend a certain course of action after their investigation, setting the stage for further negotiations, settlement, or court.
The defendant's insurance company can also make a counteroffer. If the insurance company's lawyers offer enough compensation to cover the cost of living with the injury or illness the defendant caused, they will recommend the plaintiff settle.
Patience is Key
With any settlement offer, the key is ensuring enough funding is part of the final settlement deal. Injuries and illnesses from negligence can often take a long time to run their course. Even getting to settlement talks can take weeks, months, and even years, depending on the scope of the injuries.
The risk with a final settlement is that the plaintiff experiences additional expenses because of their injuries or illness or that their situation takes a turn for the worse. If a settlement deal is in place, they cannot go back and ask for more funds. Because of that, the plaintiff's attorney will be careful to cover every foreseeable scenario in any demand letter.
Getting through prescribed treatment, mainly if physical therapy is involved, can take a long time. That also means the plaintiff needs to be patient as the process unfolds. They need to follow every medical instruction they receive, not miss any appointments for treatment or therapy, and make sure that nothing they do counters their claim of injury or illness.
What Is a New York Personal Injury Trial
If your case is not settled, the next step is a trial. For some cases, a trial is preferable because it might result in higher awards than if you agreed to a settlement. The types of NY personal injury claims that most often go to trial are cases of severe injury or egregious, reckless negligence. A jury trial can mean some jurors or the judge are empathetic to the victim, which can mean they award more in damages to the injured victim.
It is, of course, impossible to know whether that will be the case except in cases where negligence or indifference is exceptionally clear.
Because judges and juries are human, they are not always predictable. Depending on the case, there is always a risk that a judge or jury will not relate to the plaintiff or agree that the defendant is entirely at fault. That can result in losing a case or in damages not being as lucrative as if the plaintiff took a settlement deal.
Which is Better: Trial or Settlement?
Whether a plaintiff should settle or go to trial depends entirely on the case your personal injury attorney can build. A trial might be the best way to go if the case has weaknesses, but the story is compelling. If the plaintiff is not a sympathetic character or the illness is challenging to define, a settlement might be in order.
An experienced personal injury attorney will do all they can to reduce the unknowns, but it is impossible to eradicate the risk associated with either a trial or a settlement. That makes total compliance with medical instructions and complete honesty on the part of the plaintiff key.
Brandon J. Broderick is Here for You 24/7
At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, we believe in exceptional client care, empathy, and results. That’s what makes us one of the top-rated personal injury law firms in New York. With offices across New York City and New York State – from Brooklyn to Buffalo, we’ve got you covered. If you need help getting full and fair compensation for your injuries after an accident, contact us today for a free consultation.