In a personal injury settlement, the plaintiff agrees to give up all legal injury claims and the defendant agrees to pay a sum of money. Each side gives up something and each side gets something, which is the essence of a contract.
Usually, an agreed settlement is good for everybody. As a result, over 80 percent of negligence cases settle out of court. These resolutions save time. Out-of-court settlements also give the litigants control over the outcome. Trials are very risky, because even veteran attorneys can seldom predict how a jury will rule.
But not all settlements are created equally. At Carlson & Jones, our lawyers only settle cases on the best terms possible. We never do a deal just to get things over with or because we are afraid of what a jury might decide.
In terms of how Minnesota personal injury settlements work, there are three main steps.
The Legal Theory
Evidence is very important in this process. Without evidence, the plaintiff has no case. But a good legal theory is almost as important. Without it, the evidence is just a pile of bricks instead of a well-put-together house.
Negligence is one of the most common theories. In a car crash case, negligence is basically a lack of ordinary care. If there is a link between the lack of care and the victim/plaintiff’s damages, the victim/plaintiff is entitled to compensation.
That idea seems simple enough, but it can be rather complex. For example, everyone agrees that distracted driving is dangerous and causes injuries. Most everyone agrees that texting while driving is dangerous. But what about other activity, such as talking to passengers or adjusting the air conditioner? Technically, these actions constitute distracted driving. However, most jurors would not consider them a lack of ordinary care.
The negligence per se shortcut is often available as well. This doctrine is much more straightforward. Under this rule, the tortfeasor (negligent actor) is responsible for damages if:
- The tortfeasor broke a safety law, and
- That violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s injury.
There is no need to establish a lack of ordinary care. Indeed, in negligence per se cases, the tortfeasor’s carelessness is completely irrelevant. Statutory violation and causation are all that matters.
Premises liability cases, such as slip-and-fall injuries, work a little differently. The victim/plaintiff must establish that a property defect caused the injury and the owner knew about said defect. There are some important nuances here. Dog bite cases are different as well, since Minnesota has a strict liability law.
Determine a Settlement Value
Based largely on the strength of the legal claim, an attorney must determine a settlement value. If the claim is strong, an attorney usually demands a considerable amount of money. In these cases, the defendant is much less willing to risk a trial, so the defendant will pay a little more to resolve the claim.
Other factors come into consideration as well. As a result, determining a settlement value is part science and part art. Some of these factors include:
- Defendant’s Attitude: Does the defendant have a reputation for fighting tooth and nail or a reputation for giving in early? The answer may affect the amount of money the plaintiff is willing to take.
- Jury Composition: People in rural areas like Crow Wing County are usually more conservative than people in urban areas like Hennepin County: Conservative jurors are usually more sympathetic to the insurance company. But this is only a very broad rule of thumb.
- Plaintiff’s Attitude: Is the plaintiff a “motivated seller” who wants to resolve the case quickly, or is the plaintiff willing to be patient and wait for a better offer? Once again, the answer to this question may affect the attorney’s bargaining posture.
In the American justice system, attorneys are only interested in what is best for their clients. So, at Carlson & Jones, clients always come first in the settlement process.
Remember Some Old Sayings
Obviously, we do not pin our settlement strategy on catchphrases. But we do try to keep some things in mind as we go through this process.
One such saying is stick to your guns. This phrase means that once you determine a course of action, you should not waiver from it. If the plaintiff shows any sign of weakness or lack of confidence during settlement negotiations, the defendant will exploit these things.
Another one is a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Or, if you prefer a quote from Ecclesiastes, “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” If the settlement offer is reasonable, it’s usually best to take it and not hold out for more money. Some plaintiffs that hold out do get more. Others are left with nothing.
Call Today To Speak With A Minnesota Personal Injury Attorney From Carlson & Jones
A personal injury settlement is a process. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota Personal Injury Attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. An attorney can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.