21/12/2017 0 Comments
Can my lawyer settle my case and how does the settlement process work?
Most personal injury cases are settled without the need to file a lawsuit. While a case can be settled at any time, the earlier it can be settled, the better for you. An early settlement allows you to collect money to compensate for your injuries much sooner, helps you pay less in attorney’s fees and expenses, and you are spared the stress and uncertainty that is involved in any civil trial. At the Law Office of Paul R. Bennett, we are experienced in dealing with personal injury cases of all types, know how to fairly evaluate their worth, and know how to work with insurance companies to get you the best settlement as soon as possible.
Not all cases are the same, but here are some of the basic steps that are involved in a settlement for any personal injury claim.
GATHERING FACTSIn your first meeting or consultation with us, we will gather the facts regarding your injury. All consultations at the Law Office of Paul R. Bennett are free of charge. Some questions we’ll ask are:
- How were you hurt?
- Were there any witnesses?
- Is there a police report, incident report, or investigation report into the incident which caused your injuries?
- Is there any video of the incident?
- Are there any photographs?
- What hospitals and doctors have you seen for treatment?
- How has your injury affected you and your family?
If we feel we can help you collect compensation for your injury, you will be asked to sign a contingency fee contract in order for us to begin representing you. Under this contract, you pay us no money for attorney’s fees or expenses unless we win your case. To win your case, we must either settle your case for an amount of money that is satisfactory to you or try your case and obtain a jury verdict in your favor with an award of money damages. Then, and only then, we get paid a percentage of the settlement or jury award.
THE SETTLEMENT DEMANAs soon as you have completed your medical treatment, we put together a package to send to the insurance company. This includes copies of your medical bills, medical records, photographs, videos, investigation reports, witness statements, proof of lost wages, and any other documents which would support your entitlement to compensation. This package is called a settlement demand and includes a letter from us explaining how you were hurt, how badly you were hurt, why you deserve to be compensated, and how much you deserve to be paid in compensation. We want to be sure that you recover reimbursement for all of your medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses you incurred. We also want you to be compensated for your pain and suffering both physical and mental.
Once the insurance company receives our demand package, the insurance company must respond within 30 days. Usually, the response comes in the form of a counter-offer where the insurance company is offering to pay you compensation, but less than the amount we have demanded on your behalf.
NEGOTIATIONSOften the first settlement offer made by the insurance company is not their final offer. We begin negotiating with the insurance company to find out what their highest and final offer they will make to you to settle your claim. You will be kept informed throughout the settlement negotiations and no case will be settled unless you are satisfied with the amount being offered.
If you and your attorney feel that the final settlement offer to you is unfair -- or if the insurance company fails or refuses to make a settlement offer -- the next step is the filing of a lawsuit. This does not mean that your case can no longer be settled. Cases often settle after a lawsuit is filed. Settlement negotiations can take place at any time, even in the middle of a trial. After a lawsuit is filed, cases are often settled in mediation.
MEDIATIONMost judges in Georgia require that a mediation session be held before any case goes to trial in their court. A mediation is a face-to-face meeting attended by you, your attorney, the insurance company’s attorney, and insurance company representative and is presided over by a mediator. A mediator is usually a retired lawyer, a practicing lawyer, or judge who is chosen by the parties to assist them in the settlement negotiation process. The mediator listens to both sides explain the case, separates the two parties and speaks with each party separately. After speaking with both parties, the mediator will communicate new settlement offers. The mediator may also express an opinion to the parties on the value of the case as the mediator sees it. Mediations have become very popular now because of their high success rate in resolving cases after a lawsuit has been filed.
TRIALGoing to trial is a last resort when your case cannot be settled. The decision to go to trial will only be made when the insurance company refuses to make an offer to settle your case or the offer they make is inadequate and unfair. If we recommend that you file a lawsuit, it is because we believe we can collect more money for you from a jury than by continuing to work with the insurance company. The decision to go to trial will be yours to make after your attorney discusses the risks and benefits of placing your case into litigation.
Remember, our goal in representing you is to collect as much compensation for you as we can, considering all the facts and circumstances of your injury and your suffering. We promise to apply all our experience and energy toward that goal.