SHOULD I ACCEPT A SETTLEMENT OFFER?
In most cases, there will come a time when your lawyers have negotiated the settlement offer as high as it will go—the insurance adjuster or defense lawyer tells us that there will be no further offers (whether true or untrue—we’ll help you determine whether we believe it or not). The question becomes: Do I settle or move forward.
Answering this question depends on you—I frequently tell my clients that they are in the driver’s seat—my job is to give the best advice that I can, but in the end, we will do what the client wants. As the lawyer, we cannot settle a case without a client’s permission. So, here are the facts that we give the client:
- What does the settlement mean for you? I want my clients to know the amount of money they will receive in their pocket after a settlement. This means, I tell them where every penny is going to go. What medical expenses are outstanding, what health insurance liens exist, how much are case expenses and attorneys’ fees. Depending on the stage of the case, some of that might not be fully ascertained, but we can usually give a very close idea (for example, Medicare liens take a long time to resolve). Most clients don’t care what the final settlement amount is, they simply want to know, importantly, how much money they will get in their pockets after all expenses are paid.
- Settlement resolves everything. When a case is settled, it is over. You can’t take it back. You can’t file a lawsuit later, or continue with a lawsuit. You can’t change your mind. You can’t renegotiate. So make sure it is what you want. When you tell your lawyer to accept a settlement, it can be difficult or impossible to take it back, and puts your lawyer in a bad spot.
- Risk-Benefit Analysis: Every settlement decision comes down to a risk-benefit analysis. Our clients must decide whether the certainty of accepting a settlement, with whatever net money they receive, is better than the uncertainty that comes with continuing on. Moving forward to trial means more time and case expenses. It means a jury or a judge may render a verdict in favor of the defendant, or give a verdict that is lower than the settlement offer. Of course, a client may do better than the settlement offer at trial, and may net more money. We liken this to gambling, sometimes—is it better to have X amount of dollars in your hand, or are you the type of person who would take it and risk it in what is, to some degree, a game of chance? No lawyer can tell you exactly what a judge or a random group of six jurors will decide. We can give you the benefit of statistics and general experience, but in the end, we don’t know.
Our advice: We are pretty good at being able to tell you what we think. Having done this for a long time, we know if a settlement offer is terrible, fantastic, or if it falls in a gray area where reasonable minds might differ. We will let you know what we think, and you can make the decision.
If you have questions about settlement, contact our founding partner Grant Posner at 410.252.0600, or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For More Information About Settlement:
- Maryland auto accident settlement calculator
- Pre-settlement loans
- What to expect when you’re suing, part I: pre-trial settlement