In personal injury cases, the decision to settle or go to trial can be incredibly nerve-wracking for the injured party. Already dealing with the effects of ill health, the injured wants to receive adequate compensation, but fears that a trial may leave them worse-off financially than when they started. It often times can feel like a big gamble, one that is far too important to lose. With the uncertainty of trial litigation, and the difficulty of even securing a trial date, the decision to go to court rather than settle needs to be made with all rational and reflective faculties working at full capability. This article will aim to aid in the process of this difficult decision.
It may seem like shamefully obvious advice, but many people fail to heed it and pay the price in their personal injury cases: Choose the right attorney! Choosing an effective, knowledgeable, honest and dependable Michigan injury lawyer can alleviate much of the psychological and emotional distress inherent to litigation. A good way to tell if an attorney is going to be cooperative and helpful is to see how responsive they are to questions early on. Attorneys who seem bothered or are dismissive to inquiring clients may not have the experience or skills needed to navigate the choppy waters of litigation. Answers need to be provided with patience and in language that can be understood by a person without legal training.
Additionally, the numbers of the case should be well-known and understood, that is, the financial particulars. Damages for personal injury include coverage for lost wages, medical bills, rental car expenses and, more generally, pain, suffering, humiliation and distress. A good attorney will be able to work through all of these possible factors with their client, ensuring that the maximum damages will be collected. If an attorney seems abrasive or uninformed, and is unable to assist adequately in these important ways, then it might be time to seek new counsel.
Experience is the best indicator for an attorney’s quality- the more cases he or she has worked and been a part of, the better ability he or she will have in advising a client to go to trial or to settle. Experienced attorneys are able to assess both a client’s best option, the opponent’s best option and subsequently to decipher a middle ground between the two that will leave all parties feeling some measure of satisfaction. The best attorneys in the business will know after learning all the facts of a case if it is worth the gamble of going to travel, or if a settlement is the best option. Unfortunately, however, no attorney knows for sure what a particular judge or jury will see in the facts of a case, and any that pretend to know for certain the outcome of a case before it happens should be regarded with a healthy amount of incredulity.
The retainer agreement is an extraordinarily important document for an empowered client. Some retainer agreements sign over settlement power to the attorney, meaning that he or she can settle the case without the client’s consent. It’s important that the particulars of the arrangement are well-known on both sides, to prevent a settlement being made against a client’s wishes.
Sometimes, in addition to an attorney, mediators can be extremely helpful, especially if a settlement seems like the best option. Voluntary mediation contributes to an atmosphere of good will (or at least not one of open hostility) between both sides, and can help both parties come closer together, or at least help them understand one another’s goals in the case.
Attorneys and mediators aside, the decision to settle is ultimately personal (if those rights have been maintained, as they should be, in the retainer agreement). The injured person is the one who gets to decide; the or she os the one who suffered and will be the one to either gain the reward or suffer further if the case goes to trial. Of course, professional opinions should be gathered and considered, but it is not the attorney who has been wronged or wounded, and he or she needs to respect their client’s wishes. As with any hard decision, careful reflection, patience, fact-gathering and temperance will ensure the best outcome in deciding if a personal injury case should go to trial.