What’s the Difference Between a Verdict and a Settlement?
If you’ve been hurt in a car crash, truck accident, slip and fall, boating accident, or another situation where another person’s negligence is responsible for the harm, you’ve probably heard that you could receive compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. But you may not be sure what’s involved because legal cases can be very complex and insurance companies and lawyers tend to use a lot of specialized terms.
People often ask a Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer about settlements. Specifically, they wonder about the difference between a settlement and a verdict in a personal injury case. To help you better understand how injury cases play out, we’ll explore settlements and verdicts and why it is possible to have both in a single case.
What Exactly is a Verdict?
In general language, a verdict can refer to someone’s opinion or judgment about something. In legal terms, a verdict is the opinion or judgment of the jury in a lawsuit. The judge asks the jury to make a decision on specific questions of fact, and their decision is the verdict. Technically, if the judge renders a decision in a case where there is no jury, that decision is generally known as a “finding.” However, people frequently use the term “verdict” to refer to the final decision when a question is settled by the court. After receiving a verdict from the jury or making a finding on the facts, then the judge hands down a final judgment.
A single case may have many questions to be decided. For instance, in a criminal trial, the defendant could be accused of several different crimes, and the jury may issue different verdicts for each one. In a civil case, such as a personal injury lawsuit, the court may also need to decide several different issues, so there may be more than one verdict in the case.
Or there may be no verdict at all. A Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer frequently handles cases that conclude without a verdict.
When a Case Ends Without a Verdict
The person who filed the case—the plaintiff—may decide to drop the case. The court can dismiss the case on technical grounds or if the party accused of wrongdoing—the defendant—files a successful motion to dismiss. In these situations, the lawsuit concludes without a verdict.
The most common reason cases end without a verdict, however, is because the parties have reached an agreement to settle the claim. Then the case ends with a settlement rather than a verdict.
In a settlement, generally, nobody admits to any wrongdoing or fault. A settlement is a form of contract, in which the person bringing the lawsuit agrees to drop their claim in exchange for some type of benefit from the defendant. Usually, the defendant offers a certain amount of money, and if the plaintiff feels that amount is adequate, they agree to settle, accept the amount, and end the case.
A defendant may offer a settlement at any point in the legal proceedings. In fact, insurance companies representing drivers in accident cases or property owners in slip and fall cases frequently offer settlements long before the victim has had time to even think about filing a lawsuit. When this happens, it is often a sure sign that the insurance company knows their customer will be found liable, and they want to keep the payments as low as possible. It is always a good idea to have an experienced Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer review a settlement offer before accepting it. The terms of the settlement agreement will be legally binding, and you don’t want to be stuck with something you’ll regret later.
The Terms of a Settlement
You can be sure that before anyone offers you a settlement, they will have an experienced attorney draft an agreement designed to end the matter once and for all. That means that if you agree to accept an amount and later learn that your injuries will require more long-term treatment than expected, you will not be able to sue for more money. You will be bound by all the terms and conditions contained in the settlement agreement.
For that reason, it is vitally important to discuss the terms with a knowledgeable Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer. Not only can your lawyer explain all the details, but your legal advisor can also evaluate the value of your claim based on legal precedent and medical needs to determine whether the offer gives you fair compensation under the circumstances.
You Might Have a Settlement and Verdict in the Same Case
Personal injury claims are complex, and usually involve a wide range of issues. For instance, if you are suing the manufacturer of a defective product, questions can arise about:
- How the product was designed
- Materials used in construction
- Assembly of the product
- Instructions and warnings accompanying the product
- Injuries resulting use of the product
The manufacturer might agree to accept liability for injuries caused by the product but might disagree about the severity. They might agree to settle the issue of liability, but the court might need to render a verdict about the amount of compensation you should receive. In that situation, you would have both a settlement and a verdict in the same personal injury lawsuit.
Talk with a Fort Walton Beach Personal Injury Lawyer for More Information About Settlements and Verdicts
Once people understand the difference between a verdict and a settlement, they usually want to know which one is better. The answer to that question depends entirely on the circumstances. If you are offered a settlement that offers full and fair compensation for injuries and intangible losses such as pain and suffering, then a settlement offers a certain outcome and quick payment.
On the other hand, if a settlement is too low to help you meet your future needs, then it might make more sense to spend more time taking the case to trial to receive a verdict from the court. An experienced Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer could review the circumstances and help you make the best decision for your unique situation. We also help injured victims in Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach. For a free case evaluation and consultation, contact the dedicated team at Searcy Denney at 888-549-7011.