Settlement Versus Trial
Other than victims of drunk drivers, accident victims rarely have any interest in bringing their injury claim to trial. However, if the insurance carriers are not offering fair compensation, litigation and trial are the proper course to enforce your legal rights. Settlements are very simple. If you and the other side agree on case value, you sign a release and receive a check. The release is a contract wherein you accept an agreed-upon sum of money in exchange for your agreement to forfeit your right to file a lawsuit. Essentially, you are closing all claims and accepting the settlement amount as full and final payment for all injury-related damages.
Insurance regulations require an insurance carrier to fund a settled claim within ten days of the date of settlement. Thus, if you agree to a settlement amount, you can close your claim and secure payment within two weeks. Please be aware that the total amount of the settlement can be reduced after the release is signed by outside claims against your settlement. This issue is discussed in more detail later in this chapter. Before you agree to any settlement, make sure you understand where all of the settlement money is going. Be sure all medical bills are paid, and insist on disclosure of exactly how much net money you personally receive before you sign any release.
Chapter 7 provides information on the litigation and trial process. At this point, it is sufficient to note that litigation is a more time-consuming and expensive method of resolving the injury claim. However, most of the expenses fall to the insurance carriers and the other side. If your research or your attorneys suggest that the insurance carrier’s offer is significantly less than the fair value of your injury case, you certainly should file suit and present your story at trial to twelve neighbors who live in your home county. Do not be afraid of court involvement or the trial process. Stand strong and enforce your rights to full and fair payment.