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What does it mean to settle out of court?

What does it mean to settle out of court?

While you might think the courtroom is the best place to resolve a lawsuit, that’s not always true.

Whether the lawsuit is due to a small personal matter or a large corporate action, attorneys representing both parties – the plaintiff, who is suing, and the defendant, who is being sued – first work to find an amicable solution, rather than heading straight for the courtroom. While a trial may ultimately be the outcome, both sides typically try to reach a resolution to their dispute together before a judge and jury enter the picture.

“Most often, a settlement means the defendant pays the plaintiff, in exchange for the plaintiff stating the defendant is no longer liable for the incident or transaction,” says Chris Toepp, an attorney at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen in Richmond, Va. It also means both parties are forfeiting further judicial pursuit on the matter.

A settlement is often a compromise between two parties, but it doesn’t mean the plaintiff is settling for less than they deserve. “In the legal world, to settle means that an agreement was made that both sides can be satisfied with so the issue doesn’t have to go to trial, which can be costly and time consuming,” Toepp says.

Settlements Reduce Risk

While movies are far more exciting, real life litigation is almost always a slow-moving process. This means it can take years before a trial begins, which can delay any potential resolution and could increase your out-of-pocket expenses associated with litigation, such as lost wages and fees.

“By settling before going to court, you can mitigate your risk,” Toepp says. Going to trial presents a risk – no matter how small – that the judge or jury will not side with you. As there is some inherent uncertainty in the court system, settling is the most common result of civil litigation. Juries can be unpredictable.

A Balanced Assessment

A settlement is reached in the time between when the initial papers are filed with the court and when a court date occurs. This allows for multiple opportunities for conversations and negotiations between both party’s lawyers. “Ultimately, you want a lawyer you trust to negotiate on your behalf and accurately represent your interests,” Toepp says.

A good lawyer will begin by assessing how likely you are to win or lose your case. “After analyzing the costs and risks of trial versus settlement, an experienced lawyer will approach opposing counsel with an offer outlining these points,” Toepp says. Eventually, a fair resolution is met and the case is settled out of court. If that doesn’t happen, the case will continue on to trial.

Before any of that can happen, however, you first must hire a skilled, trusted lawyer that will provide you the expertise needed to push toward a settlement and advise if a trial is necessary. You and your lawyer will work together as a team to make sure your best interests are justly represented.

For more information about Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen, which has eight office locations, visit AllenandAllen.com or call 1-866-388-1307.

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