What If I Don’t Like My Personal Injury Settlement Offer?

Consider the following common scenario. One morning while you are driving to work, you slow down for traffic on I-95 and get rear-ended by the car behind you. Your car is a mangled mess.

At first, you feel fine physically. You even make it into your office and work a full day. You go to be still feeling fine and counting yourself lucky. Then in the middle of the night, you suddenly wake up with shooting pain in your neck and shoulder.

By morning, the pain is so bad that you can barely get out of bed let alone go to work. Your spouse takes you to the local urgent care facility. Nothing is broken, but the doctor says you may have suffered a herniated disc in the car accident. He also says you probably tore your rotator cuff. You spend the next 3 months in and out of various doctor offices undergoing escalating treatment efforts to stop the debilitating pain in your back and shoulder. You end up missing almost 4 months from work and racking up thousands in medical bills.

You hire a Baltimore auto accident lawyer (shameless, I know) to handle your accident claim. The lawyer spends a long time collecting your medical records and he eventually submits a demand package to claim adjuster for the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You are expecting to get a big settlement out of this. You’ve heard stories about six-figure accident settlements and you assume that is what your case must be worth. After all, you just went through pure hell and almost lost your job.

Then your lawyer comes back with the insurance company’s settlement offer of $60,000. You are shocked and disappointed. You were expecting 3 times that amount. Your lawyer claims that this is a “very reasonable” settlement offer, and he tries to convince you that your case just isn’t worth as much as you thought. Now you find yourself very unhappy. In your view, this is NOT an acceptable settlement offer, but your lawyer says it’s fair so you feel like you sort of have to accept it.

You try calling other lawyers for “second opinions” but they won’t talk to you because you are already represented. This makes you feel even more compelled to accept the offer. Can you overrule your lawyer and reject the offer? Will the attorney get annoyed and bail out on your case if you reject the offer?

What Should You Do If You Don’t Like Your Settlement Offer?

  1. Review the terms of the settlement offer: Make sure you understand the terms of the settlement offer, including what it covers and what it doesn’t cover. If you have any questions or concerns, discuss them with your lawyer.  Usually it is just a number.  But make sure you fully understand the pros and cons of rejecting the settlement offer.  Our clients often do not understand that a first offer is… a first offer.  Often this is because they are understandably frustrated by the offer.  But I’ve had awful first settlement offers and have the case settle for more than the client every hoped to recover.
  2. Consider your options: If you do not like the settlement offer, understand it better.  Can you counter offer?  Is there a possiblity for mediation or arbitration that would be more appealing?  Your lawyer can give you some context and help you weigh the pros and cons of each option and recommend the best course of action for your particular situation.
  3. Proceed to trial: Listen, we have jury trials for a reason. People sometime don’t agree on what the settlement payout should be.  If negotiations are unsuccessful and you do not like the settlement offer, you can choose to proceed to trial. However, it is important to understand that going to trial is a lengthy and expensive process, and there is always a risk of losing. Your lawyer can help you determine whether proceeding to trial is the best option for your situation.

The Lawyer Works for YOU

In a personal injury case, the client is in charge, not the lawyer. The lawyer is like the quarterback on a football team. The client is the coach. The quarterback may be the one running the plays out on the field. baltimore lawyersBut the coach has the final authority. The coach is the one that gets to decide whether to go for it on 4th down, and the quarterback must follow that decision whether or not she agrees.

This is exactly how the lawyer-client relationship is supposed to function in a personal injury case. The client is the coach. The client is the one that gets to make decisions on whether to accept a settlement offer and the lawyer is ethically obligated to accept that decision and make their best effort on behalf of the client.

Should I Settle or Go to Trial?

Of course, I have no idea what you should do.  But this is what you have to consider:

The decision of whether to go to trial or settle a personal injury claim is a complex one that depends on several factors, including the specific circumstances of the case, the strength of the evidence, the extent of the injuries, and the likelihood of success at trial.

Here are some considerations to help you decide whether to go to trial or settle:

  1. Strength of the case: If you have strong evidence to support your claim and a high likelihood of success at trial, it may be in your best interest to go to trial and seek full compensation for your injuries. On the other hand, if the evidence against you is strong or there are weaknesses in your case, settling may be a better option.
  2. Extent of injuries: If your injuries are severe and you have substantial medical expenses and lost wages, it may be in your best interest to go to trial and seek full compensation. However, if your injuries are less severe and your damages are limited, settling may be a more viable option.
  3. Time and cost: Going to trial can be a lengthy and expensive process, and there is always a risk of losing. If you are willing and able to endure the time and expense of a trial, it may be worth it to seek full compensation for your injuries. However, if you are looking for a quicker resolution, settling may be a better option.  Some people crave finality.  Some don’t and buy into the premise we preach to many clients: the longer you hold out the better your compensation will be, via settlement or trial.
  4. Emotional toll: Personal injury trials can be emotionally draining and stressful. If you are not comfortable with the idea of a public trial, or if the thought of reliving the events of the accident is too much to bear, settling may be a better option. The flip side: some clients cannot wait to tell their story in open court and feel like the weight of the world is off them after they speak their truth. Which one are you?
  5. Risk: Are you willing to take a risk? Your lawyer might be.  Your lawyer has lots of cases.  You have just one.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to go to trial or settle a personal injury claim is a personal one that should be based on your specific circumstances and goals. It’s important to work closely with a qualified personal injury lawyer to evaluate your options and make an informed decision.

Will My Lawyer Bail Out of the Case if I Don’t Accept the Settlement Offer?

Even if your lawyer desperately wants you to accept the settlement offer and no matter how frustrated the attorney might be if you don’t accept, there is only a small chance that she will bail out of the case if you turn the offer down. The attorney ethical rules do not prohibit an attorney from bailing out in this situation. Attorneys can end a relationship with a client for good cause as long as it doesn’t harm the client. There is a much more compelling reason your lawyer won’t be looking for the ripcord on his parachute if you decline the settlement offer: money.

Personal injury lawyers don’t get paid unless they win money in your case. If your lawyer has already invested considerable time and money into your case, she is not simply going to abandon that investment just because you decline a settlement. That would not make sense for the lawyer economically. No matter how frustrated he is about your decision, bailing on the case would cost money.

Can I Trust My Lawyer When He Says It’s a Reasonable Offer or Does He Just Want to Settle the Case and Move On?

The answer to this depends on who your lawyer is. Some personal injury law firms want to settle every case that comes in the door and they will aggressively push you to accept settlement offers. These firms are often called “settlement mills.”

Settlement mills rely on bringing in a high volume of cases and getting each one settled as quickly as possible so that they can move on to get the next one settled. They want your case to settle so they can avoid a time-consuming trial.