How is a Personal Injury Settlement Structured?

Most businesses and industries have complexities that are not fully understood by those working outside the particular industry being discussed. For example, a doctor or architect is not likely to appreciate the minutiae involved in commercial property development. By the same token, the property developer almost certainly would not know how to diagnose a complicated medical condition.

Similarly, the process for resolving legal disputes has its own intricacies. Unless a person has been involved in an accident and resolved a personal injury claim, he or she probably does not fully understand all the ins and outs of the legal process and what it takes to finalize the resolution of a case. Thus, it is completely understandable that many litigants ask how their personal injury settlement will be structured.

In fact, not all personal injury settlements are structured the same way. Keep reading to learn some of the different circumstances and outcomes a personal injury settlement may entail.

Can I settle my case, or will a trial be required?

The first question, and sometimes most difficult to answer, is whether a case can be settled at all, or whether a trial will be required. Most litigants prefer to settle. The lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield always thoroughly engage in settlement discussions with opposing parties, and are happy to settle cases, so long as the settlement is fair. However, in some cases, the opposing party simply refuses to pay a fair amount unless forced to do so. In those cases, we advise that our clients go to trial.

Numerous factors can affect whether a case is settled. For example, some insurance companies are simply more litigious than others. Similarly, an inexperienced adjuster may make settlement difficult. In some instances, injuries are so severe or complex that the settlement process becomes more complicated. Additionally, any issues concerning pre-existing injuries and comparative fault can make it harder to reach a compromise.

When cases are settled, are they all handled the same way?

The short answer is “no.” For example, while the majority of cases are settled with lump sum cash payments, some settlements are structured with payouts over time. Moreover, even settlements that take the form of cash payments can be based on different types of damages. Following is a list of some typical types of damages that may or may not be involved in a particular personal injury case:

  • Ambulance expense
  • Property damage to car or the car’s contents
  • Hospital bills
  • Doctor’s bills
  • Lost wages
  • Medication expenses
  • Rehabilitation expenses
  • Physical therapy
  • Home nursing expenses
  • Future medical expenses and care
  • Pain and suffering

To settle a case, the parties have to consider the various types of damages and agree on a number that makes the injured victim whole. This is easier to accomplish when an injured person has a complete, or nearly complete, recovery. For example, a victim who has a car crash and breaks her leg may fully recover after a period of time. In that case, after fully recovering, she knows there will be no more medical expenses or lost wages related to the accident. Knowing the precise expenses incurred by the victim makes it easier to settle the case.

But what about people who suffer injuries that will never completely resolve? For example, consider a victim in a semi-truck or automobile accident who suffers a serious traumatic brain injury or other catastrophic injury. Doctors state that the victim will need medical care for life and will not be able to return to work. Home nursing and other related expenses will never stop accruing. In such cases, the parties may reach a structured settlement which is designed to make payments to the injured party for life. Such settlements are usually accomplished with one or more annuities.

Call with Questions

Settling complex personal injury cases can be an intimidating process for those who do not work in the legal industry. In addition to determining a fair amount of damages, the settlement may need to be structured to payout over time. Tax and other considerations may come into play.

We understand that if you have a personal injury case, you are likely to have many questions. We are here to answer them. The personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield have settled countless personal injury cases. Please call us for a free consultation. We believe it is essential to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions so that all of society can be made safer.


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