Just how do you know you are getting a fair settlement offer in a personal injury lawsuit? That is a major concern for just about anyone that has ever filed a personal injury lawsuit. Is the offer a good deal? Is your attorney actually looking out for your best interests or trying to cut and run in a case he or she has lost confidence in? Will this settlement cover future medical bills not covered by insurance?
These are all legitimate concerns no matter how long you have been working with an attorney or no matter how much you trust your attorney.
What to Expect in a ‘Good’ Settlement Offer
First and foremost, all your expenses should be covered, past, present, and future. If the settlement is not meeting your current costs, you already know something is amiss. Some of these costs include:
- Existing medical bills
- Lost wages
- Future lost wages (if you are going to be out of work after the case is settled)
- Property damages
- Legal expenses (something many people forget to include)
- Future medical bills, including therapy, equipment, and medications
The one aspect of a settlement people sometimes forget to include is the attorney’s share of the settlement. For instance, if your bills add up to $20,000 and the settlement comes in at $30,000, it looks great, but once the attorney gets his or her 40 percent, suddenly you are in the hole by $2,000 and will have received nothing for your pain and suffering over and above your medical bills. You should expect to have all your bills covered as well as pain and suffering AFTER the attorney gets his or her share.
Is This the Highest Offer?
Going to court is always a risky deal, so you are going to have to have a feel for what the highest offer is going to be from the insurance company before you end up on the short end of the stick. Very rarely is the best offer the first low injury settlement offer, so you will have to lean on your attorney for advice on this matter.
If you wait too long to accept the best offer, the insurance company may balk and decide to roll the dice in court, which could work both for and against you. You simply never know how a court case is going to play out, so the “safe” bet is to take what you believe to be the best offer. Remember, you hired your attorney because the attorney is not only a skilled litigator but also a skilled negotiator, so there is going to have to be some trust based on the attorney’s skill and experience as to when the best offer has been received.
When to Go to Court
There are going to be times when the best offer simply is not enough, which is when you are going to have to sit down with your attorney to discuss the realistic options of going to court and winning a bigger settlement than what is already on the table. There are also going to be times when an insurance company decides to play chicken but will back out right before the case starts and put more money on the table. Again, your attorney should know the reputation of the company to help you decide what is the best move to make in a situation such as this.
Keep in Mind…
A long court battle means more legal fees for the attorney, something he or she may not want to partake in without some type of extra compensation. If you decide to go to court against the advice of your attorney, you may find yourself renegotiating the terms of the attorney’s fees. For this very reason, when first discussing the case with an attorney and outlining fees, make sure the agreed-upon fee includes the possibility of taking the case to court. If not, you may find yourself giving up far more of the settlement than anticipated or finding yourself taking that “best offer” that is given by the insurance company simply to avoid the added commission to the attorney.
Remember, your attorney cannot decide to settle the case without your approval. He or she can make a recommendation but ultimately, the decision is yours to make.
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Taryn J. White is a legal research specialist and Injury law news reporter. Her current accomplishments include helping those facing any injuries from vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, and medical malpractice.