What’s the Difference Between a Verdict and a Settlement?
When a person is injured because of the negligence of another, they may seek compensation for their losses (damages) through a personal injury claim or lawsuit. This compensation can come in the form of a verdict, or more commonly, an out-of-court settlement. The difference between a verdict and a settlement is that a verdict is decided in court and a settlement is an agreement between the plaintiff and defendant outside of court. Personal injury lawyers work hard to negotiate a favorable settlement for their clients because it is usually in everyone’s best interest to avoid a trial. When a fair settlement cannot be reached, personal injury attorneys represent their clients in court to fight for a verdict by trial.
What is a fair settlement?
A fair settlement covers all economic and non-economic losses related to the accident – past, present, and future. It is very important to consult with a personal injury attorney before accepting a settlement offer or attempting to negotiate with the at-fault insurance adjuster. An injury lawyer has the knowledge to calculate the true value of your claim and discuss your legal rights. Insurance companies bank on the fact that most people have no idea what their claim is worth so they can give them the smallest settlement possible – or deny their claim altogether.
Most personal injury lawyers provide free consultations and represent their clients on a contingency fee basis; which means clients do not have to pay unless a recovery is made through settlement or verdict.
What damages may be included in a verdict or settlement?
Each individual claim will have a specific list of damages but damages awarded in verdicts and settlements usually fall into the same categories. Here are some examples of damages:
- Past and future medical bills
- Lost wages
- Reduced or lost earning ability
- Repair or replacement of damaged property
- Life care expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Physical impairment
- Disability and disfigurement
- Loss of companionship
- Emotional distress
A personal injury lawyer will calculate the value of each damage to arrive at the overall value of a claim.
Reaching a settlement
A personal injury settlement is usually a binding agreement between the defendant (or liable party) and the plaintiff. In exchange for monetary compensation, the plaintiff agrees not to pursue any more legal action against the liable party.
A lot of work typically goes into a settlement; it can be a real challenge to get both sides to come to a mutual agreement. Personal injury lawyers start by crafting a strong demand letter and then negotiating with the insurance company until they agree on a settlement amount. In some cases, settlements are reached through a mediation or arbitration process. This settlement process can be very time consuming and it is important for injured parties to be patient in order to ensure they receive a full and fair settlement.
Reaching a verdict
In a civil case, the plaintiff only needs to produce “a preponderance of evidence to prove liability.” During the pre-trial discovery period, a personal injury lawyer will gather evidence and retain expert witnesses, as needed, to prove liability. Next, a jury is selected.
The trial begins with opening statements from both parties, followed by the presentation of evidence, witness testimony, and cross-examination before it wraps up with closing statements from each side. The jury will then deliberate to reach a decision, which is called a verdict. The jury is also in charge of deciding which party is liable for damages and therefore responsible for paying.
Seek the help of a personal injury attorney
If you or a loved one was injured because of the negligence of another, contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a lawyer. Call the personal injury lawyers at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!