If you have been in a motor vehicle accident, been severely bitten by a dog, slipped on a patch of ice in front of an establishment, or been involved in any other accident caused because someone else was distracted or, in some way, neglectful, you deserve compensation for the resultant physical, emotional, and/or financial repercussions you have suffered. As per Ontario laws, a victim should be compensated for all damages and sufferings, which include:
- Medical bills
- Any lost wages
- Physical suffering
- Emotional and mental anguish
- Any diminishing effects on the quality of life
- Any special medical aid or attendant care required
You have the right to commence a legal action, and to obtain the compensation you deserve for your suffering and the damages you have incurred. However, you can also recover your losses via insurance or settlement. Negotiating an out-of-court settlement is usually more practical and beneficial to both parties.
In most cases, the parties involved would have insurance that will cover the cost of damages. The defending party would like to avoid what is often a laborious legal process, not to mention the costs associated with pursuing a lawsuit. An out-of-court compromise can also work for the victim as it saves them the inconvenience and frustrations involved in taking their case to trial —a process that can unfold over the course of several years. A settlement ensures a guaranteed, timely payment, whereas losing a case at trial would leave the victim with nothing. In addition, losing at trial leaves an unsuccessful plaintiff subject to an adverse costs decision.
Why it may be better to settle out of court
Statistically, most cases are settled out of court. Here are a few reasons why people usually prefer an out-of-court settlement:
- Trials can be long and very stressful: From the moment a lawsuit is filed, there are many stages before the case proceeds to trial and a verdict is reached. Enduring the lengthy procedure, while attempting to manage the anxiety involved, can be highly stressful. In addition, the scrutiny to which accident victims can be subjected, as well as the aggressive and sometimes demeaning arguments aimed at them during the proceedings further adds to the stress and strain involved in seeing the process through to its end.
- The high financial cost of trial: The expenses involved in conducting a long trial are prohibitive. Usually, the plaintiff — the injured party — is only responsible for paying their lawyer’s fees if the trial outcome is in their favour. On the other hand, the defendant may have to pay hourly legal fees, which can be a very compelling reason to avoid a long, costly legal battle.
- The uncertainty of the results: Even a very experienced personal injury lawyer cannot predict a jury’s decision with any degree of certainty. Moreover, even in those cases when the jury finds in the victim’s favour, the question remains open regarding what would be the claim amount. In case of a loss, the victim would end up with nothing. On the other hand, if damages are assessed properly and the lawyer negotiates a fair settlement, the injured party is guaranteed the compensation that they deserve, which will be paid in a timely manner.
- Settlement offers privacy: All the evidence presented, arguments made, and testimony witnesses provide in a court are part of public records. In presenting their respective cases, both the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s lawyers may raise issues and pursue arguments that the opposing party may not want to be made public. When parties settle out of court, they can decide what (if any) terms and details they agree should remain confidential.
- No admittance of guilt for the defendant: If the jury rules in the plaintiff’s favour, the defendant is found to be liable for the injuries the plaintiff suffered, as well as having to pay the financial damages awarded. However, one of the advantages to reaching a settlement for defendants is that they can do so without any admission or public record of liability.
What to do before settling a claim
First and foremost, do not wait to get legal counsel. It is not possible to sue or challenge the claim in court once you have signed a settlement. The insurance company will try to minimize costs, and the defendant will prefer to downplay your injuries, impairments, and losses. Therefore, it is essential to hire a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can. Your lawyer will take care of all the paperwork, and do their best to secure a fair settlement. He/she will handle all case-related matter and will work to get you the compensation you deserve — allowing you to concentrate on your recovery. Though your lawyer will guide you through the process, here are some common considerations to keep in mind before settling a claim:
- Get a full medical assessment: In addition to compensating you for your mental and emotional trauma, as well as providing you with the funds to fix damages to your property, the amount of your settlement should also cover all of your medical expenses. You might ‘feel fine’ in the first weeks after the accident, but you should participate in a full medical assessment to determine if you have suffered internal injuries or some other physical problems that may manifest over an extended passage of time.
- Wait till you have made significant medical recovery: Assessing the total medical cost of your recovery is not something that should be undertaken shortly after the accident — especially in cases of serious or long-term injuries. Thus, it is best to wait until you have made significant progress in your recovery before making a determination regarding your total medical expenses, as well any loss of income that you might suffer as a result of the accident. Following your lawyer’s advice regarding how long you should wait will allow you to be in a better position to judge the extent and the severity of the adverse impact of the accident on your capacity to carry out your activities at home and at work.
- Account for all the damages and losses: An extended period of waiting will allow you to assess and account for all damages incurred to yourself and your property. If necessary, your lawyer can advise you and draw on the appropriate professionals to calculate your “future care costs,” such as medical and rehabilitation expenses, and any costs associated with your recovery.
- Do not be misled by the insurance company: Though insurance company representatives will not deliberately delay or deny a claim, they are looking to find the least expensive resolution of your claim. This could mean that your insurer’s representative will try to downplay your injuries and minimize your damages, while seeking a quick settlement of your claim.
Contact our personal injury lawyers at Pace Law Firm and schedule a free consultation. We can help assess your personal injury case and help you receive the best-possible compensation through settlement.