Why Should I Settle My Personal Injury Claim?
Whether or not someone should settle their personal injury claim will depend upon the circumstances of their particular case. A case is composed of three elements: liability, causation and damages. I always want my clients to have as much information as possible before making a decision to settle their personal injury case, which includes discussing with them the advantages and disadvantages of different options.
In Colorado, a person who brings a claim-whether it’s an auto accident, malpractice or a slip and fall case is referred to as a plaintiff, but in some states, they would be referred to as a claimant. Whether someone is considered a claimant or a plaintiff, the injured person will have the burden of proving all three aspects of the case, namely liability, causation and damages. The standard by which they will have to prove their case is called “preponderance of evidence”, meaning that it must be 51 percent or more likely that the facts brought before the court are true. It’s important for people to understand that if they go to trial, then most (if not all) of the facts will be disputed by the defendant. In other words, plaintiff’s testimony alone, or the testimony of the witnesses who support his/her case, will not be the only things that the judge or jury will hear.
There are rules that determine whether a case will be presented to a judge versus a jury. Defendants and plaintiffs can both always waive a jury trial, but if one of the two parties want a jury trial, then a jury trial will be automatic in Colorado. Regardless of whether a case is presented to a judge or a jury, much of the evidence will be disputed. If there is liability insurance involved in a case because that will provide a fund against which the plaintiff may recover. If there is liability insurance involved, then the insurance company will typically appoint an attorney to represent the defendant’s interest. A defendant usually has a very experienced and well-trained attorney who will make it his job to point out any weaknesses in the plaintiff’s case. It is important to remember that a defendant need only win on one of the three aforementioned issues (liability, causation and damages). For example, a plaintiff can prevail on the issues of liability and causation, but if the plaintiff cannot prove he/she had damages, then the plaintiff will not win anything.
From day one of our representation of a client, we will evaluate the risk of going to trial. In other words, we will have to consider whether or not someone would be better off going to trial than settling the case outside of the trial. There are two ways that a case can be settled without going to trial. One way of settling a case is by engaging in pre-litigation negotiations, and the second way is through a settlement that occurs before a case goes all the way to trial. During the time leading up to the trial, we will be evaluating whether or not settling the case would be more beneficial than taking it to trial. A lot of this depends on how much insurance the other party has and also, how strong plaintiff’s case is.
I obviously want to emphasize the positive aspects of my clients’ claims because I am their advocate and I am the person who is going to champion the fact that something unplanned, that was not their fault occurred, and that they suffered bodily injury and other negative consequences as a result. It will typically cost money for treatment, and it will oftentimes interrupt the person’s ability to work and earn money, both in the present and depending upon the injury, in the future. However, I am honest with my clients and I will tell them that one cannot predict with 100 percent accuracy what a judge or a jury will do with a given set of facts. People will usually get some type of settlement offered to them after a negotiation process between the attorneys or through a process called mediation, which is when a third party tries to assist the parties in settling the claim.
At some point, our job is to help the client evaluate whether or not moving forward is worth the risk. If someone is being offered “too much money to turn down” given the fact that we never know exactly what might happen in court, then it might be best for them to settle outside of court. Different people see evidence and the severity of certain injuries differently, and juries and judges have a lot of discretion as to how much they can award in terms of damages. These are issues that are always at the forefront of everything we do. The philosophy at my practice is to prepare every case as if it were going to trial, despite the fact that most don’t. If we are not prepared to present all of the evidence that supports our client’s claim, then the experienced defense attorneys will be very quick to pick up on that, which could end up resulting in a reduced settlement offer.
Unfortunately, I also have to inform my clients that the insurance companies who defend at-fault parties are only trying to close cases and settle for as little money as possible. My job is to try to make sure that my client has given all of the factors involved in a case, is treated fairly and receives good compensation for what they have been through.
For more information on Settling A Personal Injury Case In Colorado, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (303) 870-8492 today.
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