If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident and you sustained severe injuries, taking your case to court can do more harm than good. The exorbitant court costs and the extensive trial process are likely to impede your recovery, which is why most personal injury claims are settled before any legal proceeding is done.
But while agreeing on a settlement seems like the more convenient option, it does not always mean that it is the best solution. Depending on the facts of your case, settlements can also end up being unfair to you.
So before making any decisions and accepting any offers, you should first discuss your case with a lawyer and weigh the options available to you.
To settle or not to settle
Before deciding whether to settle or not, you should consider the odds of winning at trial and the amount of damages the jury may award. Being the victim does not guarantee a favorable verdict, so a thorough analysis of your situation must be done first.
Agreeing on the settlement amount depends on how long it will take for both parties to finish their respective investigations. This is to ensure that a clear understanding of the case is achieved, which is crucial for both you and the at-fault party.
Moreover, the last thing you want is to settle your personal injury claim without knowing if medical care will still be needed in the future. Once your claim is settled, the at-fault party will not be responsible anymore for whatever future medical costs and related expenses you may incur. This is why you must anticipate future medical needs before settling.
How much does a settlement cost?
There is no set amount for settlements because each motorcycle accident has unique factors that affect the total amount. However, both parties should account for the following before coming to any agreement:
• Past, present, and future medical expenses related to treatment following the advice of your doctors
• Compensation for lost wages due to your inability to work
• Reparations for the physical, mental, and emotional distress you suffered as a result of your motorcycle accident
Factors that affect settlement amount
No two motorcycle accidents are the same. Some damages and injuries are worse than others, so there is really no fixed amount on how much you are going to get. Several factors can influence this, so it can be challenging to get exact figures for your losses.
However, some factors are more common than others, so while each personal injury claim is unique, the following factors will always affect the settlement amount.
• Damages incurred
There are two types of damages in a motorcycle accident: concrete damages and subjective damages.
Concrete damages include medical costs that you have paid for or will continue to pay for and missed incomes that you have lost or will continue to lose.
Property damage is also considered concrete. The amount of damages to your motorcycle is dependent on whether the vehicle will be repaired or replaced. In cases where the market value of the motorcycle is less than the projected repair costs, the at-fault party may offer to pay the motorcycle’s market value instead of paying for its repairs.
Meanwhile, subjective damages include pain and suffering. These damages are more challenging to value because they are less concrete. After all, you cannot really put an exact amount on mental and emotional distress. Since these are harder to gauge, the closest way to predict the damages is to base the settlement amount on previous similar motorcycle accidents.
• Injuries sustained
The severity of the injuries you sustained after the motorcycle accident also influences the settlement amount. If you are previously an active person but have been left permanently disabled by the accident, the settlement amount could be higher.
Moreover, if the motorcycle accident rendered you immobile in a way that affects your capability to work, the damages for lost earning potential could be higher as well, thereby increasing the value of your settlement.
Settlement vs. trial
Assigning value to a case means making a projection on how much the jury will award and how much the at-fault party is willing to pay. It also means identifying the settlement amount you are willing to accept should you decide to resolve the case outside of the court.
Two major factors come into play when valuing the settlement amount: the extent of your damages and the extent of the at-fault party’s liability.
However, if you have little evidence to prove that the other party was at fault, the settlement amount could significantly decrease even if you have sustained severe injuries. Should that be the case, the at-fault party might be more inclined to contest their liability in court instead of settling, especially if the amount you are demanding is too high.
It is for the same reason that most motorcycle accident victims are more likely to accept a lower settlement amount because of the risk of not getting anything at trial.
Why settlements are better
Settlements may not always be the best course of action for every motorcycle accident, but there are several reasons why they are more beneficial than trials.
• Guaranteed payout
In a settlement, your compensation is guaranteed once both parties agree. After all, nothing ensures recovery than being able to financially support it.
With legal intervention, the settlement amount you will receive may not be as high as anticipated. Depending on the insurance coverage, a verdict with an amount greater than what is covered by the at-fault party’s insurance policy may limit how much you will be awarded in damages.
The at-fault party may also not have any assets, or if they have any, the assets might be protected from collection. If this is the case, the amount you are going to receive would be substantially less than what the jury actually awarded.
• No additional financial burden
Any legal proceeding is costly for both parties. Not all victims are financially capable of pursuing a personal injury claim in court, and even the at-fault party will not want to spend more than what they already need to compensate for your losses.
• Saves time
It can take a while before a case gets assigned to a judge for trial, and once it does, it can still take months or even years before a resolution is reached. Add that to the considerable amount of money both parties will be forced to spend on various court costs and settlement instantly becomes the more practical option.
Another advantage of settling is the opportunity for both parties to structure the settlement in a way that works for both of them. For instance, instead of receiving the settlement amount in a lump sum, you may decide to receive it in installments as long as it is allowed by the at-fault party’s insurance provider.
• Preventing a negative verdict
There are two types of valuation used to determine the settlement amount in a personal injury claim: trial value and settlement value. The trial value is the amount you expect the court to award, while the settlement value is the amount you hope to settle the case for.
These values are rarely equal to each other. Because you are settling a case to avoid the risk of losing at trial, the settlement value will always be much lower than the trial value. But even though the settlement value is less than the trial value, at least the compensation is guaranteed.