In movies and TV shows, most cases come down to emotionally-charged courtroom battles. These events make great theater, but the real world is different. Trials are risky and time-consuming. Furthermore, they usually hinge upon the opinion of 6 people who often make decisions based on very obscure facts. So, only about five percent of civil cases go all the way to trial.
Sometimes, the judge throws a case out of court for one reason or another. But the vast majority of these claims settle out of court. In some cases, the victim/plaintiff does not even need to file court papers to obtain a favorable settlement. The speed with which the case settles usually depends on both the facts of the case and the skill of your New York car crash lawyer.
Once medical treatment is at least substantially complete, an attorney usually sends a demand letter to the insurance company. This letter lays out both the facts of the case and the legal claim for damages, such as negligence (lack of ordinary care), negligence per se (violation of statute), or a defective product.
Rather predictably, the demand letter ends with a demand for money damages. This amount takes into account all the economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages, as well as noneconomic losses for pain and suffering. To calculate these intangible damages, most attorneys multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four, depending on the facts of the case.
If there is no dispute as to liability, the insurance company has a legal duty to make a legitimate settlement offer within about 30 days. But there is almost always at least some dispute regarding liability. So, the demand letter phase could last for several months as the two sides negotiate back and forth.
Lawyers must wait for medical treatment to end because victims only get one bite at the apple. If an attorney settles a case too soon, it’s usually impossible to reopen it and obtain more money for unanticipated medical and other expenses.
Discovery-Related Settlement Negotiations
If the demand letter does not work, the victim/plaintiff must file formal court papers. That filing usually triggers the discovery process. This is the time when both parties exchange information about their claims and defenses. The goal is to avoid a trial by ambush and make sure that the truth comes out.
Discovery usually includes both written discovery, like document requests, and oral discovery, like depositions. For example, if the victim/plaintiff alleges that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was distracted, an attorney might request cell phone records and other such information. The tortfeasor’s deposition is important as well.
After each party has a better idea about the strengths or weaknesses of both their own case and the other side’s case, these matters often settle amicably.
As the trial date gets closer, many New York County judges refer personal injury cases to mediation. If both parties negotiate with open minds, this forum is successful about 75 percent of the time.
The session begins with brief opening statements. Then, a third-party mediator, who is usually an unaffiliated personal injury lawyer or a retired judge, talks to each side separately. The mediator conveys settlement offers and counter-offers back and forth until, hopefully, an agreement is reached.
Even if the mediator does not fully resolve the case, mediation usually at least narrows the issues for trial.
Reach Out to a Manhattan Attorney
Most car crash claims settle out of court, and many settle rather quickly. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in New York, contact Michael J. Redenburg Esq. P.C. You have a limited amount of time to act.