Most truck accident cases do not go all the way to a judgment after a trial. Instead, a victim usually reaches a settlement with a defendant or insurer. In exchange for receiving a certain amount of compensation, the victim agrees to release any claims arising from the accident against that defendant. This means that they cannot sue the defendant for more money later. Settlement negotiations may proceed through a series of offers and counteroffers, and a victim may reach a settlement at any time, even after a trial has started.
Think Twice Before Taking the First Offer
The first settlement offer rarely provides full compensation to a victim. Trucking companies and their insurers usually try to make a case go away for minimal cost. A victim ideally should consult a truck accident lawyer about the strength and value of their claim before accepting a settlement offer.
A settlement may compensate a victim for many types of damages, ranging from medical expenses, lost income, and property damage to pain and suffering, emotional distress, and lost enjoyment of life. The amount may be offset by any degree to which the victim was at fault. Often, a victim who has suffered catastrophic injuries may want to wait until they have reached maximum medical improvement to finalize a settlement. This is the stage at which their condition has stabilized to the extent possible. They may not know until then how much their injuries and any permanent disabilities will affect their life, or which types of treatment they will need in the future.
Why Settle a Truck Accident Case?
A victim may have several reasons for preferring a settlement to a trial. Going to trial can take a long time, and the process can extend even longer if the defendant appeals the judgment or an earlier ruling in the case. This can prevent a victim from getting compensation for medical bills and other expenses. Trial may be stressful as well. A victim may need to testify about the accident in court, which forces them to relive a traumatic experience. They also may not want information about their physical or mental condition to go into public records. Settlement agreements usually contain non-disclosure clauses that prevent each side from revealing the details of the agreement.
Extra Costs for Trial
Most truck accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they collect fees for their services as a percentage of any compensation obtained for a client. If a case goes to trial, the percentage likely will be greater than if the case ended in a settlement. Court costs also may be higher when a case goes to trial.
The result of a jury trial is impossible to guarantee, even when a case seems strong. Many juries have issued decisions that surprised most people involved in the trial. A jury might find that a victim was at fault to a greater degree than what seemed logical, or they might award less compensation than what the defendant offered to settle the case. In this situation, the victim may even need to pay the attorney fees of the defendant.
Defendants also have incentives to settle a case. They usually want to avoid the publicity that comes with a trial, as well as a formal finding of fault. This could harm their reputation and increase insurance costs. By contrast, a settlement agreement does not require a defendant to admit liability. Moreover, trucking companies and insurers face personal injury claims all the time. They prefer to resolve these cases efficiently to limit the drain on their resources.
Who Accepts a Settlement?
A victim has a right to decide whether to accept a settlement offer, even if they hire an attorney. An attorney will use their professional judgment and experience to advise a client on whether they should accept an offer, but an attorney cannot make this decision for a client or override their decision.