Perhaps unlike many things in this business, the timing of a personal injury settlement is not essential is far less significant than the content or the terms of that settlement. The larger question for the injured person is "should" they settle, rather than when. There are multiple opportunities to reach an amicable settlement of a case throughout the lifespan of the typical personal injury calim.
- Some cases settle as the results of thorough and fruitful pre-suit negotiations
- Some cases settled as the result of a mediation conference that has been ordered by the court, at some point during the litigation process.
- Perhaps fewer cases resolved at a pre-trial settlement conference with the court.
- A few cases settle “on the courthouse steps” on the eve of trial.
Certainly, the parties may- and indeed are encouraged to- keep the settlement dialogue open throughout the litigation process. A mutually agreed to and palatable settlement can occur at any point during this sequence. The fact that a settlement occurs at any given point along the line is really of no consequence. It may be that the farther the case is into litigation, the more the parties have spent on litigation costs. For an injured Plaintiff in a personal injury case, the substantial litigation costs -generally compensating doctor for their time- is incurred just before or at trial. At the end of the day the only thing that truly matters is the content of the settlement agreement. The impediment to productive and fruitful negotiations is most often an unrealistic assessment of the case by one or both sides. Plaintiffs often might have unrealistic expectations about what is fair compensation for the injury that has befallen them. Insurance companies are institutionally driven to pay as little as possible on each given case. When and if those competing positions soften, and coalesce, or regress toward the mean, a settlement might be appropriate.
Where there is fair and reasonable offer that is consistent with a range of likely outcomes after trial on the table, and the injured person is able to temper their expectations about adequate compensation for their injury- settlement should and often does it occur. Whether it occurs at all, or whether it occurs at any point mentioned above, or in between, is not nearly as important as the terms.