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Car Accident Settlements vs. Lawsuits in New Orleans

A car accident lawyer can help you pursue the compensation you deserve

After suffering injuries in a car accident in New Orleans, victims are often faced with a crucial choice: accept a settlement offer from the at-fault driver's insurance company or file a lawsuit. This decision is critical in determining the best path to secure compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It's important to weigh the pros and cons of each option, understand the potential impact on your recovery of damages, and familiarize yourself with the necessary procedural steps.

At The Law Offices of John S. Williams, LLC, we are here to clarify your rights and outline your options. With our guidance, you can make a well-informed decision that aligns with your best interests. Consulting a knowledgeable car accident lawyer ensures your legal rights are protected and maximizes your chances of a favorable outcome.

What’s the difference between a settlement and a lawsuit?

After a car accident, an injured victim typically has two main avenues to seek compensation: file an insurance claim or pursue an injury lawsuit. While both avenues can lead to a settlement, only a lawsuit can culminate in a court order.

In New Orleans, both lawsuits and settlements are viable paths to secure compensation for damages incurred from a car accident, yet they differ significantly in process, control, timing, and potential outcomes.

Settlements involve negotiated compensation that covers a victim’s crash-related losses, both past and present, and anticipated future expenses. These encompass economic losses such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage, as well as non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.

On the other hand, court orders are directives issued by a judge at the conclusion of a trial. It is important to note that even after a lawsuit has been initiated, an attorney can still negotiate a settlement with the liable party at any point before the judge delivers a final decision.

Typically, seeking compensation through an insurance claim is faster and less costly. However, if an insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement, filing a lawsuit might be the only recourse for a victim to obtain the full compensation and justice they deserve. Filing a lawsuit may also be necessary if the damages exceed what insurance policies can cover.

Factors to consider when pursuing a claim or a lawsuit

Deciding whether to file an insurance claim or pursue a lawsuit following a car accident involves several critical considerations. These factors depend heavily on the specifics of the case, making it essential to consult with an experienced New Orleans (NOLA) car accident attorney to understand your rights and options fully. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Severity and Complexity of Injuries: The nature and severity of the injuries can greatly influence this decision. For severe injuries that result in long-term disability or chronic pain, a quick insurance settlement may not suffice. A lawsuit might provide compensation that better reflects the long-term impacts of the injuries.
  • Insurance Offer: Insurance companies often aim to settle quickly to minimize their payouts. It’s important to evaluate whether their offer adequately covers all immediate and future expenses related to the accident. A car accident lawyer can help determine if the settlement is fair or if further negotiation is needed.
  • Time and Resources: Legal proceedings can be lengthy and require significant resources. While the process may extend over years and demand considerable emotional investment, it's crucial to remember that car accident attorneys generally operate on a contingency fee basis. This means they only receive a percentage of the final compensation, and if no compensation is awarded, they do not receive a fee.
  • Risk Tolerance: Every lawsuit carries inherent risks, and there is no guaranteed outcome in court. The unpredictable nature of trials could result in either more substantial compensation or less—or even none—compared to the initial offer.
  • Long-term Impact: Consider how this decision will affect your future, such as ongoing medical needs, continuous pain, or reduced earning capacity. If the settlement offer does not adequately compensate for these long-term consequences, pursuing a lawsuit might be a better option.
  • Egregious Negligence: In instances of clear and egregious negligence, such as DUI or distracted driving, pursuing a lawsuit might be advantageous. Such cases may resonate more with juries, potentially leading to sympathetic judgments and the award of punitive damages in rare circumstances.

Impact on collecting damages

Possibly the biggest factor in determining whether to file a claim or lawsuit is the impact the decision will have on the victim’s potential compensation.

  • Settlements. Settling with an insurance company usually means quicker payment, avoiding the unpredictability of a trial. Settlements are final; once accepted, the victim generally forfeits the right to pursue any further legal action related to the accident. This route provides immediate closure and financial relief, which can be critical for recovery.
  • Lawsuits. Choosing to file a lawsuit might result in higher compensation tailored to cover all facets of the victim’s damages. However, compensation via a lawsuit is never guaranteed, and the amount recovered could be uncertain. Additionally, received damages could be subject to appeals, possibly delaying access to funds.

Steps in filing a car accident claim and lawsuit

Most car accident lawsuits start as claims in which negotiations have broken down. Every case is different, but steps in filing a car accident lawsuit in New Orleans typically include:

  • Consultation with an attorney. Initially, the victim should consult with a car accident attorney to discuss the specifics of their case. This includes evaluating the accident, understanding the extent of injuries, and reviewing any settlement offer received.
  • File a claim. It is usually advisable to file a claim after a car accident to seek compensation for damages, covering medical expenses, vehicle repair costs, and lost wages. For success, claims must contain strong evidence and sound legal reasoning backed by aggressive negotiation techniques.
  • Negotiate for maximum compensation. Insurance companies will do anything to justify a lowball settlement or rejected claim. Injured victims must fight back to get what they deserve.
  • File a lawsuit. If an insurance company refuses to make a fair offer, a lawsuit may be necessary. The next step, then, is to file a formal complaint in the appropriate court. This document outlines the basis of the claim, the parties involved, and the damages being sought.
  • Discovery. During this phase, both parties exchange information through various means, such as interrogatories (written questions), depositions (interviews under oath), and requests for documents. This process helps each side gather evidence to build their case.
  • Pre-trial motions and mediation. Before going to trial, several motions are usually filed to resolve the case or narrow down the issues to be tried. The parties may also agree to a third-party arbitrator for mediation.
  • Trial. If mediation fails or is deemed inappropriate, the case moves to trial, where each side presents its argument. This includes opening statements, witness testimonies, and closing arguments. A judge or jury then makes a decision based on the evidence presented.
  • Verdict and appeals. The verdict determines whether the defendant is liable and the amount of compensation awarded. Post-trial, either party can appeal the decision, further prolonging the process.

Get a full explanation of your rights and options after a crash in New Orleans

Deciding whether to accept a settlement or pursue a lawsuit following a car accident in New Orleans is a significant decision that should not be taken lightly. Victims must consider various factors, including the severity of their injuries, the adequacy of settlement offers, and personal resilience for a potentially lengthy legal process.

If you were injured or a loved one died in a New Orleans car accident, it’s important to have an experienced attorney on your side. In Louisiana, Attorney John S. Williams has a reputation for being a man of great character and integrity. He treats clients like family and takes pride in fighting for the rights of others.

Find out how John can help you. Contact us for a free case evaluation. Our law firm serves clients in New Orleans and offers legal representation on a contingency fee basis. In other words, you don’t pay us anything unless we win your case.

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