Resolving Car Collision Cases Part 1: Negotiated Settlement


When you are hurt in a Utah car collision, your case can resolve in several ways, depending on the unique factors in each case, but there are two basic tracks: You can reach a negotiated settlement or you can seek a resolution through the adversarial process. Each method has benefits and drawbacks, so it’s a good idea to consult a qualified practicing personal injury attorney to determine which is right for your case. This article will explore ways to reach a negotiated settlement. Part 2 will examine the different methods within the adversarial process.

I. Pre-litigation resolution

Some cases can resolve without a formal lawsuit– often with your attorney directly negotiating with the insurance adjuster– resulting in a much shorter resolution process. Because a lawsuit can take years, a pre-­litigation settlement makes sense for injured persons who, for whatever reason, are disinclined to wait for a potentially larger settlement later. A swift resolution can also take some of the long-term uncertainly out of the equation, leading to less aggravation.

The downside to a pre-litigation settlement is that it may reduce your personal injury compensation. One unfortunate reality is that the insurance adjuster will often set a low pre-litigation valuation on your case and set a higher valuation after you file suit. Some insurance adjusters will also keep track of which attorneys file lawsuits and which ones only settle claims pre-litigation. If your attorney has developed a reputation of avoiding trial, your claim’s value may be even further reduced in the eyes of your insurance adjuster.

A quick resolution of your insurance claim may be very attractive, but you will often receive better compensation for your injuries if you’re able to be patient.

II. Lawsuit with Subsequent Settlement

Most criminal and civil cases settle prior to a jury trial or bench trial occurring.  Even with the high number of personal injury lawsuits filed, they are not often tried in front of a jury. Most often, a car wreck case is set for jury trial, but the case settles after a key point in the litigation. Some key points in the litigation process that might trigger settlement are:

  • The Plaintiff’s deposition: The insurance defense attorney has a chance to meet the plaintiff at the deposition and can then evaluate how well she or he will present to a jury as well as the true extent of his or her injuries. After the injured party’s deposition is taken, it could be a good time to seek settlement.
  • Defense medical exam: In most cases, the insurance company will hire a medical doctor to evaluate the plaintiff’s injuries. In the uncertain event that the defense medical doctor’s report supports the plaintiff’s claim, it could be a good time to seek settlement.
  • Completion of discovery: Once all the evidence is collected and shared, the parties will begin preparing for trial. This will normally trigger another round of negotiation to see if the parties can settle the case out of court.

III. Mediation

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where the parties sit down with a neutral third party who is trained in helping them communicate and negotiate. Mediation is completely voluntary and you can walk away any time from the mediation session, but Utah judges will often require the parties to the lawsuit to attempt mediation before the judge will assign a jury trial date. If mediation is successful, the parties can settle the case without the great time and expense of a jury trial.

Though negotiated settlements can give you more control and are often a faster option, they aren’t always the best choice in every case. Part II will explore the ways a case can be resolved using the adversarial process.

If you have a personal injury case, it is important to have a qualified attorney on your side to help you decide the best resolution route for your case.  The personal injury attorneys at Howard, Lewis & Petersen, in Provo, Utah, have the experience to help you maximize your recovery. Contact us today for a free consultation.