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The Difference Between a Personal Injury Settlement and a Court Award

A person holding a pen signing a personal injury settlement document

When you first start looking into filing a personal injury lawsuit, you may suddenly find yourself immersed in lawsuit-related jargon. 

This jargon can be confusing at first, which is why we’re here to help. Let’s take a look at two terms that are often used interchangeably, even though they are not really the same thing: Personal Injury Settlements and Court Awards.

True, both of these terms refer to money that you are entitled to receive as compensation following a personal injury. But what are the differences between a personal injury settlement and a court award? The differences are:

  • A settlement is what you receive if the plaintiff and defendant agree on an amount of compensation without going to court
  • A court award is the amount of money that a defendant must pay the plaintiff after a jury trial, bench trial, or arbitration. 

Let’s go into more detail about each of these potential outcomes.

An image with money and the word settlement

What is a Personal Injury Settlement?

When an injured person or one of their loved ones files a personal injury lawsuit, the person bringing the lawsuit is the plaintiff.

The person being accused of causing the injury is the defendant. 

Even though these cases may end up in a courtroom, in front of a judge or jury, they don’t always have to make it that far. In many situations, your personal injury attorney can help you avoid the stress and strain of a lawsuit by getting a settlement for you. 

A personal injury settlement is an amount of money that the plaintiff and the defendant, through their attorneys, agree upon. It is based on a number that both parties agree is either fair or the best amount to resolve the issue without going to court. 

Facts about personal injury settlements in Indiana

  • Personal injury settlements are negotiated by the attorneys for both parties
  • The defendant offers an amount of money, which the plaintiff can accept or reject
  • Negotiations may continue until both parties agree on a settlement amount, or negotiations may break down and the lawsuit will continue its way to the courtroom
  • More than 90% of personal injury lawsuits end with a settlement; some estimates are as high as 98%
  • Often, the more serious an injury, the longer it takes to get to a settlement, and the more likely it is for the lawsuit to go to court

One additional option is to go through arbitration, which can be binding or non-binding. Arbitrators are typically lawyers, retired judges, or court referees who review the evidence up to a year before a trial date in a less formal proceeding. The goal of arbitration is to move toward a settlement instead of a trial. 

Can you get a settlement without filing a lawsuit?

If you receive money through the at-fault party’s insurance, that is also a type of settlement. 

Please note: if you negotiate for an insurance settlement without the help of a personal injury attorney, you are almost guaranteed to get a smaller settlement. 

Your attorney will know how to get the most out of your settlement in order to cover as many of your expenses as possible. A personal injury lawyer can also help you collect compensation for non-financial damages like pain, suffering, scarring, and emotional trauma. 

What Is a Personal Injury Award?

A personal injury award is the amount of money owed to a plaintiff, as decided by a judge or jury. 

In a jury trial, the jury decides the verdict and calculates the amount of the award. A defendant can waive their right to a jury trial and choose to have a bench trial instead. In a bench trial, the judge determines the verdict and the award. 

Facts about personal injury awards in Indiana

  • Indiana uses the modified comparative fault rule. That means that the plaintiff cannot receive compensation for damages if they are found to bear 51% or more of the responsibility for the accident. 
  • If you bear some responsibility for the accident (but less than 51%), you can still receive damages, but your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of your responsibility. 
  • The judge or jury may award additional punitive damages to punish a defendant who believed maliciously or intentionally. Punitive damages are capped in Indiana at either $50,000 or 3x the amount of the compensatory award, whichever is greater.
  • Jury awards may be less predictable than a settlement. 

What Is Included in a Settlement or Award? 

When you file a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney will help you document all of your losses from your injury. These can be monetary and non-monetary. 

Most commonly, personal injury lawsuits seek compensation for the following: 

  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Medical expenses (current and ongoing)
  • Medication costs
  • Rehabilitation 
  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring 
  • Permanent disability 
  • Therapy bills (physical, occupational, speech, and mental health)
  • Emotional and psychological distress

Types of Personal Injury Lawsuits

Personal injury lawsuits cover almost any type of injury you have suffered because of someone else’s actions. 

This includes: 

  • Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Slip and fall injuries
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Wrongful death

For those specifically seeking a motorcycle accident lawyer in Gary, it’s important to understand the nuances of such cases. Motorcycle accidents often involve complex liability issues, resulting in severe injuries, making skilled legal representation crucial.

Similarly, South Bend wrongful death attorneys can provide compassionate and dedicated legal services for those who have suffered the ultimate loss. They understand the profound impact of a wrongful death claim and work tirelessly to ensure that families receive the justice and compensation they deserve.

Additionally, if you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, a Merrillville slip and fall injuries attorney can offer expert advice and representation. With their specialized knowledge of premises liability law, they can help you navigate the legal system to secure a fair resolution to your claim.

A person asking for legal advice to an attorney regarding a personal injury court award

When to Speak to a Personal Injury Attorney

It can be overwhelming to try to stay on top of everything after an accident. Your body needs to heal, and your mind needs rest, but you also have bills, missed work, pain, doctor’s appointments, medical treatments, medications to pick up – we know that it feels like too much! 

At Yosha Law, we can help. 

First, we work with accident victims and survivors all the time. We understand that you need compassionate, comprehensive support through your recovery process. 

Next, we know Indiana’s laws inside and out – we know how to make sure that our clients get the most out of their claim to compensation. 

And finally, there is no risk to working with us. You do not owe us anything unless we win your case. The last thing we want to do is add another financial burden to your already heavy load! 

It is important to speak to an attorney soon after your accident, because we can help you collect important evidence, maintain good records, and expedite the process as much as possible. 

In Indiana, you only have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit, and the earlier we get started, the better! 

Yosha Law Firm – Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorneys

At Yosha Law, we have helped recover hundreds of millions of dollars in both settlements and verdicts. 98% of the time, we are able to beat the insurance company’s final offer! 

This is the most important thing to us, though: we care about our clients. We want you to get justice for the harm you have suffered – and we are going to help you get it! 

If you have experienced a personal injury in Indiana, contact our team. Your consultation is free, and you won’t pay us anything up front. We only get paid if we win your case.

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