Working through a personal injury case without an attorney to help negotiate your claim could be a costly mistake. You have too much at stake in these cases to go it alone. Even in the beginning, when you are deciding how to proceed with your case, having a Pikeville, KY, attorney on your side is going to be important.
When you have a personal injury case in Pikeville, you have two basic options to get the money you are owed. One is to take a settlement, and the other is to go to trial. While each case is unique and thus will require its own approach, making the right choice is best when you understand these two options.
What Happens When You Take a Settlement?
A settlement is an agreement reached before a case goes to trial. Settlements can happen at many points of the lawsuit, including before it is even formally filed.
In a personal injury case, a settlement will include these steps:
- A demand letter is sent from the plaintiff’s attorney that outlines what they need.
- The defendant’s attorney submits a response, and this usually includes a counteroffer.
- The attorneys for both parties will negotiate a settlement, perform discovery and solve minor issues to see if the parties can agree without going to court.
- If the parties agree, they will sign the settlement, money will change hands, and the case doesn’t go to court.
Sometimes, the defendant will try to get out of paying what is truly owed by offering a low counteroffer. They may not be willing to negotiate various terms of the settlement. When this happens, the case may be forced to go to court.
While you may not choose to pursue a settlement at all, depending on the details of your case, for most personal injury cases, this is the first step. If an agreement cannot be reached, then going to court is the next step.
How to Increase Your Settlement Amount
As you enter into the settlement process, you need to be certain you are getting adequate compensation for your case. To increase the amount you receive in your settlement, you need to work with a personal injury attorney.
An attorney will help you weigh all of the potential costs of your case, including long-term costs you might not have considered. An attorney will also help you with the negotiation process, ensuring you ask for the right amount to ensure your final agreement is fair and just.
To help your attorney, keep detailed records of your medical costs, time off work, and other expenses associated with your case. The better your documentation, the stronger your case will be for a solid, hefty settlement.
What Happens When You Go to Trial?
If you cannot reach a settlement agreement, or if there is no desire to do a settlement, the case may go to trial. Trials allow both parties to present their arguments to a judge or jury, who will determine if the plaintiff deserves compensation or if the defendant is not liable for the damages.
A typical personal injury trial goes through six phases. These are as follows:
- Selecting a jury – Both parties have the right to say “no” to a juror they don’t think will do a good job.
- Opening statements – This is a chance for both parties to present their version of the accident or even to the judge and jury.
- Witness testimony and cross-examination – At this point, witnesses to the accident or the resulting injuries are called, and both sides can examine the witnesses.
- Closing arguments – This is a final statement from both parties to the jury before they deliberate.
- Jury instruction – The courts will instruct the jury on handling the deliberation and presenting the verdict.
- Jury deliberation is the discussion the jury has to determine the verdict and present the verdict to the judge.
This process can delay your ability to claim the damages you deserve, and it can be quite costly to prepare for and present your materials.
Trial vs. Settlement: Which to Choose
Again, the choice between a trial and a settlement is highly personal and case-specific, but there are some benefits and drawbacks to consider when making your choice.
First, here are the benefits of a settlement:
- Settlements take less time and attention and therefore cost less in terms of attorneys’ fees.
- Settlements allow both parties to know the terms before they agree, while a trial can be unpredictable because the case is in the hands of the judge and jury.
- Because a settlement takes less time, the injured party can get their money more quickly and move on with life and healing.
- Many clients report a settlement being less stressful than a trial.
- Trials become public information, while settlements remain private.
These benefits are substantial, but trials have benefits as well. Here are some of them:
- Trials become part of the public record, so they can feel like the at-fault party is being held accountable.
- Many plaintiffs find the trial process emotionally healing because it feels like “justice” has been served.
- Trials can often lead to larger awards, but this can be offset by higher attorney fees.
If you are unsure about the best course of action, a consultation with an attorney can help you make your choice.
As you head either to the negotiation table or court with your personal injury claim, avoid going through the process alone. Schedule a consultation with a skilled attorney to ensure you have the right help in place to maximize your success.