What is the Difference Between a Verdict and Settlement?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of J.D. Smith with Law Office of J.D. Smith, PLLC.
Although verdicts and settlements can often result in the same or similar outcomes in a personal injury lawsuit, they are not the same thing. The primary difference between verdicts and settlements is that a verdict is decided by a court, and a settlement is agreed on between the plaintiff and defendant outside of court, negating the need for a trial. Damages awarded in verdicts and settlements tend to fall into the same categories, but may not be equal. In many cases, the parties involved may attempt to negotiate a settlement first, but if fair compensation cannot be agreed upon, the matter will go to court to seek a verdict by trial.
If you have been injured due to another party’s negligence, and believe the settlement you are being offered will not adequately account for your past, present, and future damages due to the injury, reach out to a personal injury attorney to learn more about your options.
It is common practice to first seek an agreeable settlement before taking a case to court.
When one party is injured by the negligent or willful conduct of another party, the injured party or “plaintiff” may be eligible to seek compensation for their damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party or “defendant”. Damages that may be sought in a personal injury lawsuit can vary widely, but generally include past and future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and even lifecare expenses if the injury is likely to affect you into the future. All of these damages may be successfully compensated in a settlement agreement.
However, it is important to be cautious when considering a settlement offer. Whenever a serious injury has occurred, it’s a good idea to consult with a personal injury attorney before accepting or engaging in negotiations for a settlement amount. These attorneys offer free consultations and even represent their clients on a contingency fee basis, which means clients do not have to pay unless they make a recovery via a settlement or verdict; in fact, the attorneys’ fees can be negotiated into the settlement offer or verdict itself. If a fair settlement cannot be reached between the plaintiff and defendant, the case may then go to court to seek a verdict.
Verdicts are generally handed down by a court judge after the case has been evaluated in a jury trial.
If an agreeable settlement cannot be reached outside of court, the case will then go to trial. This possibility is one reason that personal injury attorneys often recommend seeking an attorney with trial experience or a “trial lawyer” to handle your injury case; trial attorneys undergo additional training in client advocacy and generally have a good deal more experience pursuing successful verdicts in the courtroom rather than settling out.
When large corporations are the acting defendant in a personal injury claim, they often choose to settle out of court for the full amount when faced with a plaintiff represented by a trial lawyer. In fact, companies in high-liability industries have been known to keep a record of the attorneys who go to trial and win versus those who settle out. These companies will often save themselves the trouble of negotiating fairly up front.
In trial, evidence regarding your injury, how it happened, and the effects the injury has and will continue to have on your life will be evaluated by a jury or group of your peers. The jury will then decide whether or not they believe the defendant should be held liable for your damages, and a judge will then pass down a verdict detailing what type of compensation and in what amounts the defendant will be required to pay. By hiring a trial attorney to handle your case, you are protected both in settlement negotiations and the possibility of the case going to court; this also ensures that your attorney will not shy away from going to trial and encourage you to take a lower settlement than what you deserve.
To learn more about the difference between a verdict and settlement, or for help filing a claim or negotiating a settlement offer, reach out to a personal injury trial lawyer sooner rather than later.