According to the American Bar Association relatively few lawsuits ever go all the way to trial. Most parties to civil (non- criminal) cases are settled long before trial. Once a suit is filed, the legal process itself can actually help opposing parties understand the strengths of their respective positions, often facilitating a settlement.
Here are 5 things parties to litigation should consider about negotiating a legal settlement:
1. Define Liability. Contrary to popular belief, settling a legal matter usually does not require either party to admit right or wrong. A settlement can define a new relationship between the parties by specifying their new responsibilities or just reaffirm old ones.
2. Define Issues. In a legal complaint, lawyers list all legal theories of why a defendant is liable to the plaintiff. It not only can create confusion, but this practice tends to raise emotions. A settlement can resolve some of the less important issues while leaving other issues to be heard by the judge or a jury.
3. Reduce Expenses. Many legal professionals will agree that settling a legal dispute can be far less expensive than litigation. Filing a legal action involves pleadings, motions, discovery, pre-trial hearings, status conferences, case evaluations, jury selection, trial preparation, a trial, post trial motions, appeals, etc. Time and financial commitments as well as risk of financial exposure act as great motivators for negotiating a settlement.
4. Manage Risk. When parties to litigation reach a settlement, they themselves are controlling the outcome of a dispute. This reduces their risk of having a third- party, such as a judge or jury, decide the final outcome and terms of a dispute.
5. Strategy. Known as a “strategic default” among some legal circles, parties can often negotiate settlement terms more favorable to them than those terms and provisions found in an original agreement.
It’s often said that a good settlement is reached when both parties leave the negotiation table a little unhappy. Negotiating a reasonable settlement takes time and patience and is influenced by at least one of the above- listed factors.
Disclaimer: You should not rely or act upon the contents of this article without seeking advice from your own attorney.