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What Is A Personal Injury Settlement Agreement?

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Posted on April 18, 2023

Most personal injury cases end in settlement agreements. These are legally binding contracts that resolve a case out of court. If a settlement agreement is reached, the victim releases the other party from all further liability for the injury in exchange for a monetary sum. Learn more about personal injury settlement agreements to determine how one might play a role in your case.

How Settlements Work in Personal Injury Law

If one person suffers an injury as a result of another person or party’s negligence, the victim can file a personal injury claim in pursuit of financial compensation from the at-fault party. When a claim is filed, the victim becomes the plaintiff and the accused party is the defendant. In most cases, the plaintiff files a claim for damages, or financial compensation, against the defendant’s insurance company. The insurer will then investigate the claim and either accept or reject liability (legal and financial responsibility).

If an insurance company accepts liability for the injury, a settlement offer will be extended. This is an amount of money the defendant’s insurer offers to resolve the legal dispute. The plaintiff or plaintiff’s Tampa personal injury attorney then has the opportunity to accept the offer as-is or submit a counteroffer. Settlement negotiations can continue this way until both parties are satisfied with the monetary value and terms of the agreement. If a settlement is reached, the paperwork is signed and the case is closed.

The plaintiff will receive the amount of money agreed upon in exchange for releasing the defendant from liability. Most settlement agreements include a release of liability waiver, where the plaintiff agrees not to pursue any further legal action against the defendant in connection with the injury. Settlements may also contain provisions regarding the plaintiff’s future medical care, the payment of outstanding medical debts and any ongoing disability payments.

What Happens if a Settlement Cannot Be Reached?

If negotiations do not result in a settlement agreement, the personal injury case may need to proceed to court. If an insurance company is refusing to offer a fair or reasonable settlement for a serious injury, for example, the victim can take the case to trial in pursuit of greater financial compensation. First, however, most cases attempt to achieve an agreement through alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

ADR often involves mediation or arbitration. Both are less formal than a court trial. Mediation is the least formal. It is between both parties and an unbiased third party known as the mediator. The mediator does not have jurisdiction to make a final decision regarding the dispute; instead, he or she is there to facilitate conversations and conflict resolution. Arbitration is more formal and may result in a binding decision being made by the arbitrator if both parties agree to this ahead of time.

If neither form of ADR works and the two parties still cannot reach a settlement agreement, the plaintiff can file a lawsuit and take the case to trial. A personal injury trial is a formal legal process where both sides of the case must appear in court and present evidence and witnesses before a judge and jury. The jury will then decide whether the plaintiff met the burden of proof – enough evidence to show that the defendant is more likely than not responsible for the injury. If so, the plaintiff will receive a judgment award.

How Soon Will You Receive a Settlement Check?

Settlements are preferred to going to trial, as trials can be time-consuming and costly for both parties. Settlements can result in payment within just a few months, while a trial may take a year or longer from start to finish. Going to court is also a risk, as there is no guarantee that a jury will award the compensation the plaintiff is seeking. If a settlement agreement is reached, the victim can expect payment in just a few weeks. This may be a lump sum or an agreed-upon payment installment.

For more information about settlement agreements in personal injury law, request a free consultation at Vanguard Attorneys.