Many people ask whether or not they will end up in court if they file a claim. In reality, most claims are settled without a lawsuit being necessary. Notable exceptions include cases with disputed liability, wrongful death, medical malpractice, and cases having a claim value above $200,000. Settlement without a lawsuit can be advantageous to the client for the following reasons: attorneys’ fees are less; litigation costs are generally low; there is certainty in the outcome; and the case is usually resolved more quickly.
Most cases require a minimum of four months to one year before a settlement should even be considered. There are many reasons. First, the victim of an accident owes it to himself or herself to make sure that all of the consequences of the injury are known before settling and giving up any right to make a future claim. It is important to remember that once you receive a settlement, your claim is over, and even if you get worse in the future, the claim cannot be reopened. Clients will often ask us whether they can settle their claim and leave the medical part open. Insurance companies just simply will not do it. They are motivated to close files. And when they pay a settlement, that’s what they want to do — close the file and forget about you forever.
Most cases do not bring a fair settlement value if they are settled too soon. Common sense tells you that an insurance company is less impressed with a person who has treated three or four months and continues to have pain, but nevertheless wants to settle, compared to a person who has treated for a year, tried various treatment modalities, seen different types of physicians and therapists, had appropriate diagnostic tests, and remains symptomatic. It is easy to see which case is going to lead to the best settlement.
Before your case is settled, you will have the benefit of our analysis and advice regarding probable outcomes from settling versus filing suit. We will give you the benefit of our experience settling and litigating cases for over 30 years, but YOU will make the final decision. We work for you, not vice versa, although you can always depend upon our honest and thoughtful opinion, whether you agree with it or not.
Once the decision has been made to file a lawsuit, clients deserve to know how long the lawsuit is likely to last. Again, although plenty of lawsuits do result in jury trials, most do not. Practically every lawsuit filed by our firm gets set for trial, and in most cases, that trial date is one year or less from the date the lawsuit is filed. Understand that the trial date is an end point. Prior to reaching that end point, many things occur, including depositions, written discovery, analysis by experts, and settlement discussions. Almost every Florida lawsuit is subject to mandatory mediation. This means that an insurance company with a representative having full settlement authority and the claimant with his attorney must meet with an impartial mediator and go through an informal process designed to determine whether or not a settlement can be mutually agreed to. Only the mediation process is mandatory; settlement is not. Nevertheless, mediations have been remarkably successful in the State of Florida in resolving lawsuits short of trial.
If yours is a case that does go to jury trial, you can expect to be in a courtroom between a minimum of two full days and two weeks. Preparation for that jury trial is all important and Barnes Cohen & Sullivan uses its experience and know-how to work with you so that your case is presented in a convincing and reasonable fashion so that the jury has faith in your credibility and acknowledges the validity of your claim.