Before You Sue: Understanding The Limitations Of Insurance And Settlements In Personal Injury Cases

If you've been in an accident, and another person is at fault, suing the other person for injuries is often the best way to get the money you need to cover medical costs, property damage, and loss of income. However, it is not always as simple as it seems, especially when it comes to dealing with insurance, settlements, and income. Before you get knee-deep in a lawsuit, here are a few things you should know.

It May Not Pay Off As Well As You'd Like

Even though you may deserve compensation for a host of damages, throwing yourself into a personal injury case may not give you the payout you need. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

In an automobile accident, the other driver may not have insurance. Even though they are at fault, there simply may not be any deep pockets to pay for the settlement. Unless you personally have paid for uninsured motorist coverage out of your own policy, you will not see any returns from a lawsuit, even if you deserve them. However, if your state has "no fault" laws, your insurance could end up paying for at least a portion of your costs. 

Similarly, if you have a slip and fall accident on someone's property, you could technically decide to file a lawsuit if you were injured in the fall. After all, failing to shovel the walk would be the fault of the owner. However, if this person is not wealthy and has no property insurance, you may find a lawsuit to be more trouble than it is worth, even if the person is forced to sell their property to pay for your damages.

The money for a settlement has to come from somewhere, and if the property does not have a high value, you still may not get enough money to make the lawsuit worth your time and money. 

It's best to file a personal injury case when:

  • the party at fault is a company or corporation
  • both sides have insurance
  • the person at fault has significant personal wealth or property
  • the possibility of settlement is high

Settlement Can Be A Good Thing

If you have decided that the guilty party has plenty of cash to cover your costs, then it's time to enter the negotiation process. Even though TV shows depict heated trials and scintillating evidence, in reality, taking your case to trial is both expensive and time-consuming. It can be better for everyone to accept a settlement instead.  

When you file a personal injury claim against a business, company, or corporation for personal injury, your lawyer will first approach their legal representation with the amount of money you hope to receive. Then, their lawyers will typically approach your attorney with a different settlement offer. This offer:

  • is intended to keep your case out of the courts. It is usually a lower amount than what you may have originally ask for.
  • may come with conditions. Some businesses don't want certain cases to hit the media, and so they may offer a larger sum of money in exchange for a confidentiality agreement.
  • is negotiable. Usually, the offered amount will not be enough for your damages. You can reject this offer and ask for more, similar to how you might haggle over the price of item at the market. 

You attorney will advice you on how best proceed from this point. They may suggest that you simply accept the lower settlement, especially if your case is not strong enough to take to trial. The judge may not award you with as much as the company has offered at the settlement table. But, if the offer is insulting, and your case definitely deserves more attention and compensation, you can buckle up for the long and sometimes bumpy road through trial.

A personal injury can be difficult to recover from and live with, and if you can, you should always seek deserved compensation. However, before entering the process, it's best to fully review your situation with a personal injury attorney, to make sure that it really will be worth it.