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The defendant wants to settle. Should I accept the offer?

You have suffered serious injuries as a result of another driver's negligence, and there is no doubt that you have a case. In fact, the defendant is offering you quite a bit of money. Should you accept it?

Here are some questions to consider before you take the money or proceed with litigation.

What are your damages?

Some of your damages will be easy to determine. For example, what is the total of your current medical bills? How much pay have you lost by missing work? How much did it cost to fix your vehicle? The amount the defendant (or the insurance company) is offering you should cover all of these costs.

There are also damages that are not as simple to calculate, though. You may want to go to court if the settlement does not include money to cover future medical expenses, the pain and suffering the accident caused you and the problems your injury has caused for your family. A judge or jury may even decide to award punitive damages to make an example of the defendant or hold him or her liable for particularly reckless behavior.

How strong is your case?

If you have concrete evidence such as pictures, videos and documentation, and you have medical professionals ready to offer expert witness, an attorney may urge you to go to trial, especially if similar recent cases have resulted in large awards. If there are difficulties involved in going to trial, or the defendant also has strong evidence that may sway a judge or jury in his or her favor, it may be more practical to accept the offer.

Will public knowledge of the case cause you or the other party distress?

Because you are filing a civil case, there is a good chance that the trial will generate at least some measure of publicity. You may have concerns that being in the public eye could lead to difficulties you would prefer to avoid, which may cause you to lean toward settlement. On the other hand, the negligent party or parties could have many reasons to want to avoid negative attention, which could strengthen your negotiating power and lead to a higher settlement.

How long will it take to reach a verdict?

A crowded court docket, a lengthy discovery process and other factors could make your case drag on and lead to more problems for you. If the delays cause hardship, your attorney may advise you to accept the offer or press for a better one before resorting to a lawsuit.

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