One of the toughest decisions a client can make during the litigation process is, after receiving a settlement offer, whether to take the offer or continue to trial.
From the lawyer’s perspective, there is a duty to present any settlement offer to the client. The lawyer also can either recommend acceptance of the settlement or rejection. Either way, in the end, it is the client who decides how to proceed.
From the client’s perspective, he/she is being offered a settlement, generally an amount of money, to dismiss a claim against the other party. The client may be concerned that the settlement is not what was expected, or he/she may be worried about the risk and cost of proceeding to trial. Either way, it is normal, and in fact common, for clients to have a bit of anxiety when deciding whether to accept a settlement or proceed to trial.
A skilled attorney will take the time to get to know the client, determine what the client wants, and gauge the client’s risk tolerance with respect to proceeding with a lawsuit. A skilled attorney will also know the case well enough to speak knowledgeably and honestly with the client about the strengths and weaknesses of taking the case to trial, the benefits of accepting a settlement, whether the offered settlement amount is reasonable, and the potential costs of trying the case.
The benefit to settlement is finality and control. If the parties settle a case, the parties get to decide the amount of the settlement, method of payment, timing of payment, and related terms. A successful settlement ends the case. Settlement can provide a client with peace of mind and resolution – the client no longer needs to worry about a trial.
The benefit to a trial is dependent on several different factors, unique to each individual case. If the settlement amount is unacceptable to a client, he/she may choose to proceed to trial, hoping a jury will award more than the settlement offered. Sometimes the other party is unwilling or unable to offer a settlement offer, and trial is the only avenue available to seek compensation. Of concern to attorneys and clients alike is that, although a jury could award the client more, it also could award the client less, or even nothing at all. Unlike settlements, where the terms are negotiated and known by the parties, a trial can be completely unpredictable. A jury can award any amount of monetary compensation, which can be equal to, more, or less than any prior settlement offer. Clients and their attorneys don’t know what they’re getting until they receive a verdict from the jury after a trial.
This process is generally more tolerable for clients, more effective, and more likely to result in a successful outcome when working with a skilled attorney. The lawyers at Gebhardt & Kiefer are well versed in civil litigation and familiar with numerous areas of law, including employment issues, business/commercial disputes, and personal injury. Please feel free to contact us for a consultation at 908-735-5161.
Benedict F. Valliere, Esq. is an associate with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC and concentrates his practice on civil litigation, primarily personal injury, municipal law, and insurance defense. Contact Mr. Valliere at 908-735-5161 or via email.