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It may sound strange, but at times a Personal Injury Lawsuit is very much like playing chess and poker at the same time. Just as in chess there are certain predicable moves and countermoves that each side will employee to try and gain an advantage or force their opponent into a weaker position, and just like playing poker it is not always the best hand that wins, but the player that pushes the hardest or plays out the best bluff. A perfect example of this is an Offer of Settlement and how it is employed by your attorney.

In this article we will try, as best we can, to explain what an Offer of Settlement is and how it can impact your case. Then in a subsequent article we will discuss some of the strategies that may be employed, to use this powerful tool.

What is an Offer of Settlement?

Unlike many legal terms, an Offer of Settlement in a Personal Injury lawsuit is exactly what it sounds like. It is where one side makes an official offer, in writing, to settle the case, after it has been formally filed in the circuit court, but before it has gone to trial.

No doubt, your attorney or the defense lawyers will have made some attempts to negotiate your case, before it has reached this point, but once the case is filed a very specific set of laws come into play that greatly alters the game.

What an Offer of Settlement Changes

As we have discussed here before, the court system itself would prefer that cases be settled before going to trial. Their dockets are constantly full. Because of this, there is a system of penalties built into the laws governing an Offer of Settlement that can greatly change the judgment in a case.

The most important of these is a section that in simple terms says, if an Offer of Settlement is made and rejected and then the offering party wins a judgment by more than 25 percent of the offered amount, the rejecting party will then be responsible for all of the offering party’s legal fees.

In other words, if you were in an auto accident and suffered an injury and you and your attorney have calculated $100,000 would be a fair settlement, for your injuries and he sends an Offer of Settlement to the defense lawyers for that amount. If they reject it and you then go to trial and win a judgment of $125,000 or more the defense will not only lose the settlement amount. They will be required to compensate all of your attorney’s fees from the time the offer was sent, until the trial ended as well as the court cost associated with the case.

This is, of course, an oversimplification, used for example purposes only and to be honest the laws governing an Offer of Settlement are very complicated and constantly being revised. Still, even from this simple example, I believe you can clearly see how valuable a tool this can be for either side, if utilized properly.

I hope that in some small way, I have helped to clarify and add to your understanding of an Offer of Settlement. It is just one of the many tools that your attorney has at their disposal to add you in reaching a satisfactory conclusion to your personal injury case. Like all tools though, it is only as good as the craftsmen that wields it.