There is a long-standing proverb among the legal profession: “Justice delayed is justice denied.” It means that if there is an unreasonable delay in getting what you deserve, then the legal system isn’t treating you fairly.
As auto accident attorneys in Wilmington, we certainly can understand that sentiment—and we’ve heard it often enough from our clients. Whether we are able to negotiate a settlement with an insurance company or negligent driver, or even if we have to take a case to a jury trial, it seems that almost every case takes longer to resolve than our clients would like.
We’d like to suggest another proverb: “Justice rushed is justice crushed.” Even though it’s difficult to wait patiently, we believe that our clients’ interests are often best served by letting time pass. An early settlement can often turn out to be inadequate over the long term.
The Benefits of Waiting
Only a small fraction of personal injury lawsuits in North Carolina end up in the courtroom. Professional estimates indicate that around 85 percent of cases are settled out of court after negotiations between the lawyers for each side. Now, it’s obvious that, on the first day we are hired, we could call up the opposing counsel, learn their settlement offer, and immediately recommend our client settle. Bang! Case settled. The client gets a check in a day or two, we collect our fee, and everyone’s happy.
Except, we would be left with the knowledge that we haven’t done an ethical job. As Wilmington plaintiff’s attorneys, we tend to prefer waiting a bit—“waiting for the case to mature” is the phrase we use. This benefits the client in three vital ways:
The total losses you suffered only become evident with the passage of time. At the outset, nobody knows how much physical therapy you are going to need, how many surgical operations, or how much psychological counseling to get past the shock of your New Hanover County traffic accident. We don’t know how many months you will be unable to work, or whether you will face a permanent disability that would keep you from working in a high-paying job for the rest of your life. Each of these questions comes with a price tag that adds to the total value of your case. We prefer to wait until it’s clear what the maximum improvement you can get from medical care before we sum up the total we will demand from the insurance company or defendant.
The insurance adjuster is counting on your anxiety. She knows you worry as your bills pile up. She hopes you’ll be worried enough to settle early for a lower total. Your best response is to show patience.
You may decide that settlement is not in your best interest. If you sustained severe injuries that are well documented, and if the insurance company isn’t willing to present a settlement offer that reflects the value of the case, your Wilmington car accident lawyer may advise you to reject the settlement and proceed to trial. Because of backlog in the civil justice system, it may take a few additional months before your case is ready to be tried. The defendant may continue to make settlement offers throughout the trial, in order to avoid the risk of a huge damage award from the jury; if you find one of these offers generous enough, take it.
Waiting Doesn’t Mean Inactivity
Of course, while he is waiting for your case to mature, your attorney should be advancing his investigation into your case. He will keep you informed regularly of any progress in negotiating with the other side.
Remember, you are the person in control of your case. Your North Carolina accident lawyer will give you advice, but it’s your decision whether to accept any settlement offer.
If you want a deeper understanding of the settlement process, call Speaks Law Firm toll-free at 877-593-4233 and ask us to send you a copy of The North Carolina Auto Injury Book, our guidebook for new clients. We’ll send it to you free. At the same time, you can also make a FREE appointment with one of our attorneys to discuss your case. Let us show you how you can benefit from hiring Speaks Law Firm, where every client is our most important client.