Can my personal injury lawyer accept settlement without my consent?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was injured by a friend in a hunting accident last year. My friend would not help pay for my medical expenses. I hated to do it, but I ended up having to file a personal injury claim against him. His attorney has offered a lowball settlement. I do not want to accept the settlement because I need more money to cover my potential losses from the injury. My lawyer, however, is recommending that we accept. Can my lawyer force me to take a personal injury settlement offer without my consent?” 

What is a personal injury?

Personal injury can occur when a person is injured and suffers loss due to another person’s negligence, carelessness, unintentional, or intentional actions. Personal injury claims are common for car accident claims, property damage cases, premise liability cases, medical malpractice, and contract breaches.

To win a personal injury claim the injured party must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care, the defendant breached their duty, the breach was the proximate cause of the injury, and the plaintiff did in fact suffer loss or injury.

How much will I win for my personal injury claim?

The amount you can collect if you win your personal injury claim can vary by state, by injury, and by the type of injury claim filed. For example, to lower medical costs some states have capped the amount of certain types of damages which are awarded for medical malpractice claims.

Car accident victims will also generally receive only the maximum amount of compensation which is offered by the defendant’s car insurance coverage. This amount is generally in the tens of thousands of dollars rather than millions of dollars. 

Additionally, although punitive damages may be allowed if the defendant’s actions are deemed malicious or performed with a flagrant disregard for the plaintiff’s well-being, many cases will not allow punitive damages.

The statute of limitations may also determine whether compensation is paid. For example, in some instances, a claim may be invalidated if the plaintiff waits too long to file their injury claim and the statute of limitations expires.

Will my personal injury claim go to court?

There are a variety of reasons you might want to settle your personal injury claim.

  1. Settling your case may allow you to control the risks and avoid an unpredictable jury.
  2. Settling allows you to receive your payment faster. This might be especially important if you need your money now to pay for expensive medical bills.
  3. Settling allows you to avoid a protracted and very expensive legal court battle.
  4. Settling may allow you to keep the details of your case private.
  5. Settling allows you a guaranteed victory. Although it’s true you might not end up with as much money as you want, you at least avoid the chance that you will end up with nothing if the jury decides against you.

Can my lawyer negotiate a settlement without my consent?

Now, back to your question. A lawyer should not negotiate any settlement without your consent. In fact, it is your lawyer’s job to keep you informed about your case. You and your attorney should work together to determine a range of figures that would be acceptable. If you and your lawyer can never get to the right figure, you may need to discuss the option of fighting your case in court.

The only exception to getting your consent prior to accepting a settlement is if you stop speaking to your lawyer and you disappear. If your lawyer cannot find you and discuss the settlement offer with you they may be contractually allowed to accept a settlement offer prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

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