You are the victim of an accident. So you hire a lawyer to represent you.
Let’s say that you live in Teaneck. Someone from Paramus rear-ended you. You were stuck in traffic on Route 4. You had no fault in causing the crash. As always, you were wearing your seat belt.
Nonetheless, you suffered severe injuries. You must endure months of medical treatment. You go through physical therapy. Your lawyer tells you that you are entitled to compensation. And not only for any medical bills not covered by insurance and lost job earnings. You can further get compensation for your pain and suffering and any loss of quality of life.
Trouble is, the perpetrator’s insurance company refuses to offer you a fair settlement. Accordingly, your injury attorney files a lawsuit on your behalf in New Jersey Superior Court. He files the court complaint at the Bergen County Justice Center in Hackensack.
However, the other insurance company still refuses to make a fair offer. Like any other case in our overcrowded court system, the case drags on for months. Isn’t there something that your accident lawyer can do to encourage the other side to settle the claim fairly?
Actually, depending on the specific facts of the case, there are several techniques that car accident lawyers employ to encourage settlements. In this post, I will discuss only one of them. The name of the technique is an offer of judgment.
An offer of judgment is simply an offer to settle the case for a certain amount, which is formally served in writing on the defense lawyer. It should contain certain language.
HOW ACCIDENT LAWYER CAN USE OFFER OF JUDGMENT TO SETTLE CASE
Say your lawyer sends his adversary an offer of judgment. He offers to settle the case for $300,000. Under the law, if the perpetrator’s insurance company rejects the offer, and a jury later awards you more than 120% of the offer (i.e., over $360,000), then you would not only receive your share of the award, but also all litigation expenses arising after your lawyer conveys the offer. These litigation expenses include attorney’s fees and expert witness fees. Normally, those fees would come out your settlement.
However, under the offer of judgment rule, the perpetrator’s insurance company would bear a significant portion of these expenses. Therefore, you will walk away with a lot more money in your pocket.
Accordingly, an offer of judgment by your accident lawyer can often facilitate a settlement. A settlement that occurs well before trial. You see, insurance companies generally don’t want to risk big payouts.
It requires experience on a lawyer’s part to properly use an offer of judgment. If he makes too low an offer, and the other side accepts it, you won’t get full compensation. Conversely, if the offer is too high, the other side can disregard it with impunity. The penalty only kicks in if the jury comes back with a verdict significantly in excess of the offer.
AVOIDING A “LAWYER ACCIDENT”
You need a veteran lawyer if you are an accident victim. The offer of judgment technique is complex. Space does not permit me to discuss all of its aspects and risks. Further, it can impact other legal rules and settlement techniques that may apply to your case.
When you hire an attorney for your accident case, you want an experienced accident lawyer by your side. You don’t want a lawyer accident. That’s what can happen if your attorney lacks experience. Or doesn’t think things through fully.