Why Does My Lawyer Want to Settle My Case?

If you appear on The Price is Right, you never take the deluxe living room set, which includes a massive TV, and quit. You always try for the trip to Paris if you have a chance. This foolhardy approach works well on game shows. But it is a very poor litigation management approach.

That’s especially true today. The plaintiffs’ trial winning percentage had plummeted since the 1990s. Since it’s very difficult to win the trip to Paris, that complete living room set looks pretty attractive.


There are other reasons your lawyer wants to settle your case. For example, out-of-court settlements give victims more control over the outcome. They decide what’s fair and what isn’t fair. At trial, a judge dictates the result.

Furthermore, there’s an old saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. People shouldn’t let go of something good, like a favorable settlement, for a slim chance at something better. Generally, people who go for it all end up with nothing.


The Settlement Value of a Case


The settlement process starts before negotiations begin. Usually, the evidence in a case determines its settlement value, which is like the sticker price on a new car. Anyone who has ever bought a car knows that there is some give and take regarding the price.


Usually, the customer does most of the giving, and the dealer does most of the taking. The dynamics are different in court, if the victim has an attorney. So, there’s not as much giving and taking.


Evidence in an injury claim usually includes the accident report, medical bills, and witness statements. This evidence, by itself, may not be enough to set a high settlement value.


Medical bills are a good example. These documents often don’t indicate the victim’s pain level at the time. This evidence is critical to noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering. Additionally, prior procedures often indicate little about necessary future procedures.


So, attorneys usually partner with independent doctors to obtain additional evidence on this point. This partnership usually means a delay and a higher cost. But the investment of time and money usually pays off.


Resolving a Case


If all the issues are perfectly clear, a lawyer settles a case during informal negotiations. But, there are usually some questions about the extent of damages, as outlined above. There may also be some questions about liability (legal responsibility) for the victim’s injury.


Comparative fault is often an issue. For example, if Eddie slips and falls at a supermarket, the owner might claim that Eddie tripped over a baked bean display in the aisle.


Because of such issues, most injury claims settle during mediation. A third-party mediator supervises settlement negotiations and makes sure that both sides negotiate in good faith. That means no low ball or “take it or leave it” offers. Because of this duty, mediation is about 90 percent successful.

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