It's critical to keep you, the injured victim in the loop about what happens, especially during settlement negotiations.
The question may come up during an early conference on your case. It might come up during a brief phone call with your adversary. It might come up as your attorney passes the defense lawyer in court on the way to another matter.
The question seems relatively simple.
“How much do you need to settle this case?”
That question may not come up until your case is ready for trial.
Careful strategy and analysis of your case must be given before giving an off the cuff simple answer.
In order to properly give a correct answer, your attorney must know the true value of your case.
That means it's critical to have all your medical records from your treatment in the office in order to fully evaluate the extent of the harms and losses you have suffered.
Injured victims usually assume that their attorney knows what the value of their case is from the very beginning. They assume that their attorney has handled similar cases in the past.
At the beginning of your case, it is extremely challenging to know the full extent of your injuries and whether they are permanent and disabling. It is difficult to know at the beginning whether you will require ongoing medical care and treatment. It is also difficult to know at the outset whether your injuries will be disabling and if so, how.
As your litigation proceeds forward, we have the opportunity to obtain your medical records from the doctors you are treating with. We also have an opportunity to learn from your doctors the extent of your injuries as well as your prognosis.
After you have finished your medical treatment we are able to look at your overall injuries, your prognosis and the other harms and losses you have suffered to determine the value of your case.
This will give us an overall sense of similar cases and then we will make every effort to distinguish your case as having more or less of that value compared to what our research has revealed.
Only then can we make an educated decision about the value of your case. Only then can we have an educated discussion with the defense attorney or the insurance adjuster about possible settlement.
Although the defense attorney would like to get a settlement number to his quick question, giving a knee-jerk answer without any thought to what the true value of your injuries are worth can do more harm than good.
You try not to be in a position where the defense attorney immediately turns around and asks “How do you know that's the true value of your clients injuries since we are at the very beginning of this case?
By giving a premature estimate or value of your case, you may lose credibility with the defense attorney and the insurance company.
The next time you hear an attorney ask “How much does your client really want to settle this case”, you need to know at what stage of the litigation is this question coming in.