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Jan 7, 2021

In cases of personal injury, it is always important to attempt to seek accountability for any and all personal or financial damage suffered. The best way to seek this justice is by hiring a lawyer. Although monetary payment cannot fix broken bones or aid in your pain and suffering, it is the most common form of compensation when it comes to personal injury cases.

If you do decide to hire a lawyer and go through the process of a personal injury case then you will need to know the difference between a settlement, verdict, and judgment.

What is a Verdict?

When a verdict occurs, it is because two parties in a lawsuit do not agree on the terms of the suit. This means that the suit will go to court, and a jury will need to decide on a ruling. The jury will listen to both sides present their case (often with a lawyer representing them) and then the judge will decide who is correct.

Should the judge believe that you are correct, as the plaintiff, then you will be awarded money. If you are said to be incorrect then the defendant will not be required to pay anything, and you will lose your case. Essentially, a verdict is a judgment or decision that occurs within a court proceeding. The verdict is issued after a trial.

What is a Settlement?

To make it simple, a settlement is a voluntary and binding resolution agreement that occurs between two parties in a civil suit. This occurs without input from the court. There are a few methods of obtaining a settlement in a personal injury case.

During the case: Parties can settle at any point during the case as long as both sides agree. If the two parties decide they want to settle the case, then the court will create a document to make it official. The judge must also agree with this and sign the document when issuing the judgment.

Before the case: Settlements can also occur even before a legal lawsuit is filed to avoid this altogether. This is known as an out-of-court settlement. Typically most personal injury cases end in this type of settlement, as they do not even make it to court due to the at-fault insurance company claiming fault. The reason for this is that avoiding a court trial can keep costs lower overall.

What is a Judgement?

When the plaintiff and defendant cannot agree upon a settlement, then the lawsuit will go to trial. In a trial, the end decision must be decided by a judge or jury. Judgments are essentially decisions and will reach a verdict. If the verdict is in favor of the plaintiff (the person injured), then the defendant will need to pay damages.

They occur when a court order is put into action in a lawsuit. If a judgment is placed against you, it means you have lost the case.  Personal injury judgments are harder to collect than settlements and will be collected by a debt collector. Despite this, it is legally the responsibility of the plaintiff to set up the payment arrangements. This can be through the garnishment of wages, or to collect the debt by any legal means necessary.

Key Differences: Settlement vs Verdict vs Judgement

Essentially a judgment is an official decision made by the court that signifies that the plaintiff has won their court case. Settlements are not dictated by the court, but rather are an agreement by both parties regarding the outcome of the lawsuit. Verdicts are also a decision, similar to a settlement, but it is decided by the jury in a trial, while a judgment is decided ultimately by a judge.

Choosing Between a Settlement, Judgement, and Verdict

When to Accept a Settlement

It is a personal decision when you should accept a settlement, but the bottom line is that it should be when the amount of financial compensation is worth it for you. There are four main things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to accept a settlement. 

  1. Victims can reject settlements and still receive compensation: Settlements are not a “now or never” type of situation. Even if you reject your proposal, you still have a chance to negotiate something better for yourself, or your lawyer can do so on your behalf.

  2. Settlements are binding: It is important to note that after you accept a settlement that it includes a release of liability. This means the insurance company will no longer be required to pay anything in the future, and you can never take the case back to court.

  3. Your injuries may not seem serious, but can become more severe over time: This is why it is very important to go to a doctor as soon as you are in an accident. If you do not, you may not realize that your injuries require more intense treatment, your wounds may not heal as you expected them to, or complications can arise. You never know what the future might hold, and being quick to accept a settlement may get you less than you deserve.

  4. Cost of Accident vs Settlement Offer: Although your first settlement offer may include the obvious expenses, like those to your car, your lost wages, or medical expenses, they will often not offer to cover the entire expense of the accident. Be sure that your settlement is fair, and includes things such as your vehicle repairs, alternative transportation, coverage for childcare if you are too injured to do so, future lost earnings, as well as pain and suffering.

When to Pursue Judgement

If you are severely injured in a personal injury accident that is not your fault, then you have a few options. If it is a car accident and the at-fault driver does not carry bodily injury coverage, or it does not fully compensate you for your damages, then you may need to pursue a personal injury claim directly against them by filing a lawsuit.

By going to trial, you do risk the chance that a judgment will be less than what you could have received with an out-of-court settlement. One reason you may want to pursue a judgment specifically is if you feel the settlement is not fair compensation.

It is good to note that you will be responsible to collect your monetary debt should your personal injury judgment require that. There are court-based procedures to assist you in this, but it can be tricky.

When to Pursue a Verdict

If a settlement cannot be reached between yourself and the defendant, then with the help of your lawyer you can go to court and have your attorney plead your case. Verdicts do often result in high compensation, but it is also a long process. The only time you should pursue a jury verdict is when the settlement does not justify your injuries.

Should You Accept a Settlement or Pursue a Verdict?

There are a few factors that will go into your decision of whether or not you should accept a settlement or pursue a verdict. First off, a verdict means you will go to trial. Going to trial will always take longer to complete than a settlement is to be accepted. This means that your legal fees will be higher, and it will take longer for you to get a payout. If you settle out of court, then your legal fees will be lower, and you will get your money sooner.

Despite this, you should decide with a personal injury if your team can get the other party to agree to a settlement first. As long as these cover the damages you sustained in the accident, as well as those to your person, it is often the best and fastest outcome.

Choosing a jury verdict may be the best option in cases where the other party refuses to negotiate any reasonable settlement. The jury may end up giving you a larger amount of money than in a settlement, but there is no guarantee you will receive anything which is risky. Regardless of your decision, hiring a personal injury lawyer can greatly improve your chances of obtaining a higher settlement or better-paying verdict.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer

During any form of personal injury case, you should always hire a lawyer. Not only will a lawyer work to help do what in your best interest, but having a personal injury lawyer will also typically offer a better result in terms of monetary reward. The experienced lawyers at Anderson Hemmat know how to build a strong argument, and handle similar claims daily.

It is important to understand that there is a strict deadline for filing a claim. If you have suffered from a personal injury due to the neglect of another party contact us today to schedule your initial consultation. We can explain how a personal injury case works and to discuss your options.

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