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Should you settle your injury claim out of court?

Deciding to settle your injury claim is a big decision -- but it's one that most injury victims face sooner or later.

If you're at the start of negotiations over a personal injury, here's what you should expect -- and what to consider before you decide to settle.

1. Negotiations may take a while

Protracted negotiations aren't unusual, especially in complicated injury cases. Your personal injury attorney will send all the accumulated data to the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim and ask for a settlement. Naturally, the insurance adjuster will try to pick apart the claim as much as possible and try for a lower figure. The back-and-forth may go on for quite some time.

2. You will likely see some kind of settlement offer

Unless the insurance company is denying every aspect of your claim, you'll eventually receive some kind of settlement offer. Your attorney is obligated to tell you about any offer that's made, regardless of its merits.

3. If often makes sense to accept a settlement

If the figure you are asking for and the figure the insurance company offers are close together, it's often in everyone's best interest to compromise. For the insurance company, staying out of court is usually cost-effective. For you, it may be simply a case of "diminishing returns." The potential value you'd gain from going to court might not be worth the stress and hassle of a court battle -- or the risk of an even lower award than what's being offered.

4. You should consider all the angles before accepting a low offer

If the insurance company's offer is way below what you expect, you will probably be faced with the difficult decision to either accept the offer or go to court. Your personal injury attorney should help you consider all of the following issues:

  • The strengths and weaknesses of your case
  • Any particular strengths or weaknesses in the other side's case
  • How juries in your area have responded to similar cases
  • How much money you might receive if the trial is successful
  • Any practical problems trying your case (due to distance, time constraints, etc.)

Ultimately, settling an injury claim is a personal decision, and only you and your attorney can decide if it makes sense for your particular situation.

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