When you’ve been hurt and it’s someone else’s fault — for example, a car accident, a fall on someone else’s property, a medical error or a defective product — you may need to bring a personal injury lawsuit to cover your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses. It’s tough to decide whether to fight the case in court or settle the claim.
The most important thing to do before you decide whether to settle your case is to talk with a qualified attorney. Your lawyer will investigate all the circumstances of your situation and evaluate how likely you are to win the case – and how much money a judge or jury might award you.
Your attorney will also reach out to the defendants and determine how willing they are to fight the case. Sometimes defendants – and their insurance companies – refuse to be reasonable in their negotiations, making it very difficult to settle a case without giving up more than you should.
In the end, the decision on whether to settle depends on how strong your case is and how much each side is willing to fight. Another important consideration is how much insurance coverage is available from the responsible parties.
When It May Be Best to Fight in Court
If the evidence clearly shows that the defendant was at fault and your losses were clearly far more than what the insurance company is offering, it may be worthwhile to take your claim to court.
It’s important to remember, though, that there is always a risk in letting a judge or jury decide your claim. Even if you think your case is a “sure thing,” it is still possible that the court will see it differently and find for the defendant.
When It May Be Best to Settle
South Carolina uses a modified comparative negligence system. This means that you may be able to recover compensation even if you were partly to blame for your accident. However, if the evidence arguably shows fault on your part, it may not be worth risking a trial – especially if the insurance company has made a reasonable offer to settle.
This is where advice from a trusted lawyer can be very important. Your lawyer is not emotionally involved in the case the way you are and will be impartial when it comes to giving advice about whether to take a settlement offer. Of course, it is ultimately your decision.
Another factor to consider is whether you can wait for a case to make its way through the courts. People with high medical bills or other expenses may want to settle faster to recover needed funds.
How Soon Do I Need to Make a Decision?
In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for filing an injury claim is three years in most cases. The time limit can be shorter if the at-fault party was a government entity.
It’s important to start the process as soon as possible in order to prepare the best case and protect your interests to the fullest possible extent. An attorney will help you understand the laws so that you are equipped to take legal action, either immediately or once you are further along in your recovery.
Keep in mind that filing a case in court does not rule out a settlement. In fact, many cases settle during the pre-trial phase, on the courthouse steps or even during trial.