What Is a Settlement? Part 2
When you think of a personal injury suit, you probably imagine a courtroom and a jury. However, most personal injury cases never get that far. Instead, many people choose to settle their disputes out of court. Settlement means that the party at fault gives the injured person a sum of money in exchange for the injured person giving up the right to take the issue to court or pursue any further legal action. The settlement process begins by the parties negotiating to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties.Settlement Agreements
Once an agreement has been reached, the parties sign a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is a contract in which the victim agrees to forfeit the right to pursue further legal action and the defendant agrees to pay the sum of money that was agreed upon in the negotiations. In some cases, the court may enter a judgment in accordance with the terms of the settlement agreement.
Payment on the settlement agreement may come in a lump sum or in periodic payments, depending on the terms of the agreement.Multiple Defendants
If an injured person is suing multiple parties for the injury, settlements must be negotiated individually. This means that if all parties settle, there will need to be multiple settlement agreements.
California law provides that in some instances, an injured person suing multiple defendants may collect the full amount of economic damages from one defendant, even if that defendant was only partially responsible for the harm. However, if one defendant settles, that defendant is no longer liable for collection from any other defendant. For example, an injured person sues four defendants, who are each 25 percent responsible for the harm. Defendant A settles for $10,000, while the others proceed to trial. At trial, the victim is awarded $100,000 in damages, and collects it all from Defendant B. Even though Defendant A paid less than 25 percent of the full amount in the settlement, Defendant B may not ask Defendant A for reimbursement for any part of the $100,000.Pros and Cons of Settling
Trials are time consuming and expensive. The settlement process is much less expensive and much faster than taking the case through court, which can last months or even years. Additionally, settlement is a private process, whereas trials in court are public. Settling may protect personal information that would come up and become publicly available if the claim were litigated.
However, settlement means compromising. The other party may be unwilling to negotiate, or may make negotiations difficult. There is also the chance that if the injured person took the case to court, the court may rule entirely in his or her favor, but settlement forecloses that option.
If you have been injured and someone else is at fault, a dedicated lawyer can help you evaluate your claim, decide if settlement is right for you, and negotiate with the other party. Please contact the skilled San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free initial consultation at (408) 289-1417.