How are Personal Injury Cases Settled?
Unlike criminal cases, which are initiated by the government, a formal personal injury case typically starts when a private individual (the "plaintiff") files a civil "complaint" against another person, business, corporation, or government agency (the "defendant"), alleging that they acted carelessly or irresponsibly in connection with an accident or injury that caused harm. This action is known as "filing a lawsuit".
In reality, most disputes over fault for an accident or injury are resolved through informal early settlement, usually among those personally involved in the dispute, their insurers, and attorneys representing both sides.
A settlement commonly takes the form of negotiation, followed by a written agreement in which both sides forgo any further action (such as a lawsuit), choosing instead to resolve the matter through payment of an agreeable amount of money.
The "middle ground" between a lawsuit and an informal settlement is alternative dispute resolution procedures like mediation and arbitration.
Mediation is a non-binding process in which the Mediator (typically a retired judge or experienced attorney) works to achieve a mutual resolution of the case by reviewing the case independently with each party and discussing the strengths and weaknesses.
Mediation is successful in resolving a large percentage of cases. The session is very informal and non-threatening. Frequently, other evidence is submitted such as medical reports and records and accident reports. You will not have to testify, but may be informally asked a few questions, or for a brief explanation.
If the case is not settled at Mediation, the case would then continue through the normal course of the litigation process.
Arbitration is binding and will provide a final result of your case. The Arbitrator makes a decision to award damages, or not to award damages, based upon the evidence presented.
If a damages award is made, the Arbitrator will determine
the amount of the award. Arbitration should for all practical purposes be considered final since there is generally no appeal from an Arbitration award.