Auto Accidents – How a Settlement Works

Motorist involved in car accident signs settlement with his lawyer.
When the settlement is agreed upon, it has the same impact as a jury verdict, meaning that it is a contractual agreement between the two parties. Usually, the terms of the agreement are put on paper, and both sides sign it.

Settling Your Case Instead of Going to Trial

You’ve been in a car crash, injured by a negligent party and filed a lawsuit when a settlement offer is made. Your attorney thinks it’s a fair amount, and deciding whether to settle is left to you. If you reached this point in a lawsuit, you are similar to approximately 95 percent of all claimants. The problem is that not all offers are fair. It is important to learn about the settlement process before making this type of decision. 

What Is a Settlement Arrangement?

When a legal case is settled, the defendant and the plaintiff resolve the claim. They reach a settlement that both sides believe is fair. The amount is tempered by the type of accident and the defendant’s need to avoid any sort of publicity. 

When the settlement is agreed upon, it has the same impact as a jury verdict, meaning that it is a contractual agreement between the two parties. Usually, the terms of the agreement are put on paper, and both sides sign it. The defendant is obligated to pay the amount agreed to by the plaintiff. The plaintiff agrees to dismiss the defendant’s further obligation when they accept the payment. 

Negotiation in a Settlement Agreement

The parties or their attorneys meet to discuss the possibility of a settlement. Each side has a settlement figure in mind. However, what seems fair to one side might appear unfair to the other. 

This leads to sometimes lengthy discussions to bridge that gap. Each side may bring data/evidence with them to support their side. The stronger your evidence is, the more likely you will dissuade the other party from objecting to the settlement amount. 

This where a personal injury lawyer comes in. He or she will investigate the claim and use data from this investigation to build a robust case for their client. The negotiation is strongly dependant on the strength of the legal case.

Composition of a Settlement

The settlement agreement contains the amount the parties decide on during negotiations. It might also discuss how the payment will be structured. While the settlement agreement will specify why it exists, liability may not be discussed or noted.

Once the agreement is made and signed, it is irrevocable. That means if either party changes their mind about it, there is little chance it will change. For instance, if the plaintiff accepts the agreement and takes the payment, they cannot ask for further compensation. An example would be when the plaintiff accepts an early offer in a car accident and has not yet been fully treated. They will not be able to ask for more money if it is discovered that they need surgery for their accident injuries. 

The offer of a settlement is not in itself binding. There must be a mutual agreement between the two parties. The party who rejects the settlement offer does have the right to make a counteroffer. The counteroffer is a rejection of the offer that precedes it. In general, most cases ultimately are settled after many offers and counteroffers are made.

Can a Settlement Be Defective?

Yes, in some cases, the settlement agreement can be defective. For instance, if the agreement relied on fraudulent information or if one party was forced into the agreement, then it can be set aside. However, the party who feels the settlement is defective must prove that it is so. 

Can a Settlement Be Enforced?

Yes, it can. If a settlement agreement is accepted and signed and one party fails to execute its end, it can be enforced. An enforcement motion can be made. Basically, it tells the court that the other party has ignored their obligation and asks that compliance be mandated. The court has the option of placing the non-compliant party in contempt of court.

Roeser Law Firm

At Roeser Law Firm, we have negotiated numerous settlements for our clients. One thing that helps is that the opposing side knows that if a settlement cannot be reached, we are prepared to take the matter to court. Call us at (202) 660-4070 if you have been injured by a negligent party. You can also contact us online if it is easier for you.  

Zeke Roeser


3000 Connecticut Avenue NW
Suite 140
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 660-4070