Although there are a variety of paths that might lead to resolution of a personal injury claim under Maryland law, there are really only two outcomes. Any claim will resolve through a settlement, or the claim will resolve by court action.
Statistics show that most cases resolve through settlement rather than trial.
These numbers also show us that of all claims that are raised, only a relatively small portion of those claims actually result in lawsuits being filed. From those claims that are actually filed in court, and hence become “cases” only a relatively small fraction are actually tried by a jury or a judge. Statistically speaking, your personal injury claim is more likely than not to settle on a pre-suit basis. If a lawsuit is filed, your claim is more likely than not to settle after suit has filed.
A personal injury settlement is a voluntary undertaking, where:
- an agreed upon sum of money
- is offered by an insurance company
- to an injured person
- that the individual accepts
- in exchange for releasing the at-fault person, and the insurance company, from all liability.
A verdict and subsequent judgment, on the other hand, represent financial compensation, awarded by a jury after trial, to an injured person. Clients sometimes ask when they'll get their “settlement” from court. Settlements are not awarded by courts- rather verdicts and judgments are. Settlements are the result of negotiation and are a voluntary arrangement entered into by the parties.
Even after suit is filed, there are still multiple opportunities for the personal injury case to resolve by a settlement. Most jurisdictions will schedule a pretrial settlement conference. Most jurisdictions likewise will automatically schedule the case for a mediation conference prior to trial. A settlement conference is usually conducted by an acting or retired judge. Mediation sessions are typically held with a mediator, who may or may not be a former judge. Of course, settlement discussions can always be held informally between the parties -at any time. All settlements are completely voluntary outcomes. Both parties must agree to the terms, and no settlement is possible unless they do. Conversely, a verdict and judgment, handed down by a court, is involuntary. A judge or jury decides the facts, and awards the compensation they deem appropriate. Obviously this is not something that is agreed to by the parties.
While settlement is clearly not an appropriate outcome for every case- it is often said that settlements give the parties a measure of control over the outcome, rather than resulting on the uncertainties and vagaries of litigation. Whether a settlement offer is reasonable, or if the case should proceed to trial, is part of the guidance that a seasoned personal injury attorney renders.