When a car accident leaves you injured and facing a mountain of medical and other bills, you can, of course, sue the person whose negligence caused your accident. In such a suit, you seek damages, both economic and noneconomic, sufficient to cover all your current and future losses resulting from your injuries.
You may, however, be hesitant to hire a personal injury attorney and file such a lawsuit, even though its outcome could substantially benefit you. Why? Because you fear having to go to court. Unfortunately, courtrooms can be scary places, especially if this would be your first time appearing in one.
Actually, your fear may take several forms, including the following:
- Fear of confrontation
- Fear of public speaking
- Fear of authority figures, such as a judge
- Fear of making a mistake
- Fear of having a panic attack while on the witness stand
Whatever your specific fears and anxieties may be about going to court, you will be glad to know that the likelihood of you having to do so is minuscule. Statistics show that, nationwide, only about 4% of personal injury lawsuits ever wind up in court. In other words, 96% of these lawsuits settle before a trial becomes necessary.
How Settlements Work
The one major thing to keep in mind is that when your attorney files a lawsuit on your behalf against the party whose negligent acts or failure to act caused your accident, and hence your injuries, it’s actually that person’s insurance company with which he or she must deal. Thus, even though most car accident lawyers will prepare your case as though it will wind up in court, this is simply good practice and makes for a stronger bargaining position during the settlement negotiation process.
As you might expect, even though your attorney and the lawyers employed by the defendant’s insurance company do not conduct their settlement negotiations in court, this is nevertheless an adversarial process. Your lawyer’s job is to get you the maximum compensation available under the law. The insurance company lawyers’ job is to pay you the least amount you will accept and thus protect their company’s bottom financial line.
Numerous factors determine the length of the settlement process. In general, these factors can be broken into the following categories:
- Your situation as it exists now
- Your situation as it may exist in the future
- Negotiation skill of the lawyers
Neither side disputes the fact that the accident occurred or that you sustained injuries in it. Instead, the areas of contention likely revolve around the following:
- What injuries did you sustain?
- How serious are they?
- How long will your recovery take?
- How long will you remain off work?
Potential Future Situation
If you suffered serious injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury, a spinal cord injury, or extensive burns, both sides realize that your losses probably will extend on into the future. Thus, areas of contention may include the following:
- To what extent will your injuries leave you partially disabled?
- What medical and rehabilitative services will you require after your current hospitalization and for how long?
- Will your injuries leave lasting disfiguring scars?
- Will you need to purchase and use mobility equipment, such as a wheelchair, prosthesis or white cane, for the rest of your life?
- What is the likelihood that will obtain meaningful employment and therefore an income similar to that which you now have?
- To what extent will your injuries decrease your overall enjoyment of life?
Finally, your lawyer’s negotiation skills become all-important during the settlement process. This is why your best chance of obtaining a favorable settlement amount comes when you hire a personal injury attorney whose track record shows that he or she has both the experience and the tenacity to keep the process going for as long as it takes to convince the insurance company lawyers to offer a truly fair and adequate amount.
Your lawyer is ethically bound to tell you the amount of any settlement offer the insurance company makes immediately after it’s made. In all likelihood, he or she will also advise you on whether you should accept it or whether he or she believes that the company will go higher with further negotiation or the threat of an imminent trial. By the way, this is precisely why a conscientious personal injury lawyer begins preparing your case for trial from the very beginning.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
In addition to settlement, other ways exist for you to stay out of court when you file a car accident lawsuit. Called alternative dispute resolution, most states offer them, and they have become quite popular in recent years. As the name implies, ADRs serve as processes by which disputing parties can reach a resolution of their issues without having to go to court.
Massachusetts, for example, offers several court-approved ADR processes, including mediation and arbitration. All are informal and confidential proceedings in which a neutral third party, either a mediator or an arbitrator, hears from both sides and strongly encourages them to work together to solve their problems. This neutral party then acts as the parties’ facilitator in doing just that. Be assured that the facilitator allows neither side to abuse or steamroller over the other.
Whether the final result of alternative dispute resolution is legally binding depends on the parameters the parties set at the beginning of the process. In any event, a judge will need to approve any agreement the parties arrive at.
Not only can alternative dispute resolution keep you out of court, but it also usually takes less time than courtroom litigation and, perhaps more importantly, puts you in control of the decision-making process. Generally speaking, disputing parties usually feel more satisfied with the results of mediation or arbitration than they do with the results of a jury trial. There’s a lot to be said for making one’s own decisions.
How an Experienced Local Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You
Whether through settlement, alternative dispute resolution or a full-blown trial, you need — and deserve — the knowledge, training, tenacity and dedication that an exceptional car accident lawyer brings into the equation. Pursuing a personal injury claim is not for the layman. You need the services of an experienced local attorney who can do the following:
- Establish the at-fault party or parties in your accident
- File a lawsuit on your behalf within the allowable time frame set forth in your state’s statute of limitations
- Gather, understand and organize your medical records
- Effectively negotiate with the lawyers working for the defendant’s insurance company
- Determine if and when they make a fair settlement offer
- If necessary, help you navigate through the litigation process and allay any fears you have with regard thereto
At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, we do all this for you and more. In fact, we give you our 10-point Stone Cold Guarantee® that makes your post-accident experience a positive and stress-free one. The mission of our team of experienced, empathetic and approachable attorneys is to relieve you of your financial burdens so you can focus on recovering from your injuries and getting back to the life you love. So contact us today. You’ll be glad you did.