When you are involved in any type of accident which results in physical injury, you naturally have a lot of questions. This is especially true when the accident was the fault of someone else’s negligent behavior. Many accident victims wonder about settlement offers in these cases, and as a personal injury law firm in Central Oregon, one of the most common questions asked of us is whether a personal injury case should go to trial or whether a settlement should be accepted. The answer is that it depends on several factors.
When Accident Settlements Work in a Victim’s Favor
Settlement offers are often made to victims who file an accident injury claim. Most accident victims who have discussed various settlement offers made by insurers with a personal injury lawyer in Bend quickly learn that in most cases, insurance companies have a vested interest in settling the matter outside of court. There are some reasons for this including:
- Time investment — remember that time is money. When a personal injury case must go to court, it costs more money because a lawyer must spend considerable amounts of time preparing for a trial. This applies equally to victims and insurance companies. After all, a victim’s attorney is also working “on the clock” to prepare for trial and must dedicate time to the trial, which means higher legal fees for the victim as well.
- Risk vs Reward — juries are unpredictable. An insurance company knows they could wind up paying significantly more if a jury finds in their favor. However, a good personal injury lawyer will always warn their clients that a trial could result in their getting no settlement at all.
- Publicity — while a settlement offer remains private, between the victim and the insurance company, trials are public and can be messy. Victims who suffer a serious injury may not wish to make their problems public, and insurance companies certainly do not want to appear to be denying funds to a seriously injured victim.
When Trials are More Beneficial for Accident Victims
There are times when your personal injury lawyer in Bend may advise you that your best option to get the compensation you deserve is by taking your case to trial. Keep in mind, this will mean additional time until you receive a settlement. There are some things you should know if your attorney is making this recommendation:
- All personal injury cases have a reasonable settlement offer. These offers are based on the extent of injuries the victim suffers, present and future wage losses, and present and future medical expenses associated with treatment. If your personal injury lawyer believes the insurer is being unreasonable, then a trial is usually your best option.
- When the insurance company is trying to deflect responsibility to the victim this means they are minimizing the victim’s losses. This is often a multi-step process which may include claiming the victim was partially responsible for the accident, that the victim had a pre-existing condition, or the victim’s injuries are not as serious as claimed. In these cases, your personal injury lawyer in Bend may recommend trial to resolve the discrepancies.
- When you have a strong case which clearly demonstrates your injuries are more serious, and therefore your financial losses are more significant than what the insurance company is offering, then your attorney may recommend your case go to trial. Remember, once a settlement is accepted, you have no further legal recourse. In some instances, the more serious your injury (particularly if the injuries are visible) a trial may net you a better settlement.
All accident victims should be aware that most accident victims settle out of court. Settlement offers can be made shortly after an accident, when the attorney from a personal injury law firm in Central Oregon files their initial lawsuit, or at the beginning of a jury trial. In some cases, the insurance company will offer a reasonable settlement shortly after a trial starts.
Evaluating Settlement Offers Following an Accident
Victims should not have to guess whether a settlement offer is fair. Therefore, I always encourage accident victims to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer following an injury. Trying to determine whether an offer is reasonable is something which can only be accomplished when someone has a full understanding of Oregon laws and Oregon insurance companies.
Remember something, an attorney who has experience advocating on behalf of accident victims already understands what is considered a reasonable settlement based on the type of accident, the injuries a victim sustains, and the long-term outcome of the victim’s injury. As a victim, you probably do not have this knowledge, which means you are looking at the offer based on your current needs and not the long-term outcomes which must be considered when accepting a settlement.
Remember, insurers know you are out of work while recovering from your injuries and they know you are facing financial challenges as a result. This gives them an opening to offer you a lower settlement amount and hope your financial situation will encourage you to accept it — whether it is fair or not. They also know once that settlement is accepted, you are on your own for any future expenses associated with treating your injuries.
You have the right to a fair settlement for your injuries regardless of what type of accident you were involved in. Do not let your insurance company, or the responsible party’s insurance company, take advantage of you. Discuss your case, your injuries, and your financial situation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Bend and find out if you should hold out for a better settlement, or if you should go to court to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Our accident injury attorney, Nathan Steele, is licensed to practice in both Oregon and Washington State. We will stand by you and fight for your rights. Contact our Central Oregon personal injury law firm today for a free consultation. The Steele Law Firm also provides legal services for other personal injury law claims, including wrongful death, medical malpractice, bicycle accidents, birth injuries, traumatic brain injuries, as well as other injuries caused by a negligent party.