Understanding Verdicts and Settlements

Contrary to the popular perception created by popular novels, movies and TV shows that attorneys do most of their work in courtrooms during civil or criminal trials, most accident-related cases are actually settled out of court. This is because a majority of individuals who are sued as a result of an accident have some type of insurance to cover the results of the incident, whether it’s a slip-and-fall case, a botched medical procedure or a car crash. In such cases, the defendant’s insurer is the prime mover in managing the case and makes all the major decisions regarding the legal aspects, including taking care of the defendant’s legal fees and making the proposals for settlements.

For an insurance company, going to court and actually going to trial is hardly ever a desirable situation. Facing a plaintiff’s attorney in a jury trial is risky business for insurers; there’s no way to manage the variables of trial length, court costs or even how a jury reach a verdict.  A sympathetic jury might decide to give the victim a big monetary award to compensate for loss of property or injuries incurred. Juries will sometimes add punitive awards on top of the usual pain-and-suffering and loss of wages compensation packages.  Some juries have hit corporations with punitive verdicts which result in costs that reach multi-million dollar figures, and even if a court ends up reducing a victim’s compensation to more manageable levels, court trials often become financial sinkholes and public relations disasters.

Thus, insurance companies are eager to settle out of court most of the time; they will only go to trial against a plaintiff when the case is flagrantly bad or outrageous.They will offer to settle out of court, but usually they will do so in terms that serve their interests. To limit their losses, insurers often resort to offering plaintiffs large up-front payments that seem reasonable but come with a catch: If a plaintiff accepts, he or she must sign an agreement that legally precludes any future legal action regarding the case.Thus, if you’ve been injured in a car accident and your health takes a downturn as a result of your injuries after you signed the settlement, you can no longer sue for any further medical compensation.

Bearing this in mind, make sure that you and your legal counsel are certain that the settlement is fair and covers all your expenses. If not, analyze all the possible angles of going to court, including the odds of winning a jury verdict and even going after the defendant’s financial assets should your award exceed his insurance policy.

An experienced car accident lawyer is highly recommended before you begin any proceedings.

Source: http://www.saclaw.lib.ca.us/pages/verdicts-settlements.aspx

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