My lawyer wants to take my case to court. What are my options?
Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have been severely injured in a car accident. The insurance company for the other driver offered me what I consider a fair settlement offer. My personal injury lawyer, however, has recommended that we take the case to court. I was wondering why he might recommend this and what I should do?”
Understanding your options
First, it’s important to understand that your attorney works for you, not the other way around. Although you will need to discuss your options with your lawyer and make sure you understand the pros and cons of each option, whether or not to go to court or take a settlement option is ultimately up to you- the client. In fact, if your lawyer fails to bring information about a settlement offer to you this is considered a violation of their professional code of conduct.
With that said, however, there are important things to understand before making a decision about whether to take your case to court or to take a personal injury settlement offer.
Trial vs. Settlement
Most personal injury claims are settled out of court. This is true despite the fact that many injured claimants might actually win more money if they did take their case to trial. Settlements are accepted for a variety of reasons:
-Plaintiff does not want a protracted legal battle
-Plaintiffs want their money now, not months or years from now
-Each party is not sure what the trial outcome may be
-The plaintiff could receive more money without paying for the expenses of a trial
-The insurance company has offered the maximum payout available under the policy limits
-The attorney has a heavy case load and pushes the plaintiff to accept a personal injury settlement
Now, you specifically mentioned your personal injury lawyer is pressing you to go to trial despite the fact that you really want to take the settlement offer. Although we generally hear from plaintiffs who are frustrated that their personal injury lawyer won’t fight for them in court or seem to be avoiding taking the case to court, what you have described does happen.
So what do you do if your attorney is pushing for a trial? The first step is really listen objectively to what your lawyer is proposing. It’s easy to become emotional or feel the need to rush to settle, especially if you need the money now. It’s important, however, to review and understand the legal reasons behind your lawyer’s opinion.
For instance, have they had other cases similar to yours that they have won in court? Is there a precedent in your state for plaintiffs with similar injuries to yours winning large settlements in court? Is the offer really reasonable and will it really cover your injuries and long-term medical expenses?
Finally, you need to make sure you have all the facts before making a decision. Keep in mind, if you do accept a settlement offer and later find that the compensation you accepted in the offer does not cover your injuries, you will not be able to file a second suit for the same injuries.
Can I fire my lawyer and get another lawyer?
If after listening to your lawyer you are still at an impasse it’s important to understand that your lawyer is required to follow your wishes. If your lawyer refuses to do that, however, you may need to talk to a second lawyer and get another opinion.
Unfortunately, if you decide to fire your first lawyer and they were working on a contingency fee, you may still owe them money for the work they have done and paying them without any settlement money or before you have won compensation in court might be tough to do.
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