Preparing for settlement negotiations

If you are the plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking damages for mental and emotional injuries, you should be prepared for each stage of litigation. Being prepared for each phase of the lawsuit will help minimize any feeling of loss of control, confusion or not knowing what to expect next. In addition to being prepared for deposition and trial, you should also be prepared for settlement conferences and negotiations. Settlement proceedings are important in many mental injury cases.

A key part of being prepared for settlement negotiations is to try not to form unrealistic expectations. It is not unusual in a mental injury case for the client and the attorney to evaluate the case differently. The client’s evaluation of the case may not reflect the probable jury verdict value, or what a defendant or insurance company will be willing to pay in settlement.

Mental and emotional injury cases are very difficult to evaluate for settlement purposes. Even the most experienced attorneys have trouble “putting a number” on a case. The value of mental and emotional injury cases is normally dependent on a number of hard to assess intangibles. Depending on all the variables in your case, it may be an uphill battle to obtain full damages to compensate you for all the suffering that you have endured as a result of your mental and emotional injury.

If your case goes to trial, it will be decided by a group of people who do not know you, who are not trained in psychology and medical science and who may never completely understand the extent of your suffering. Some jurors can be uncomfortable making a large award in a mental and emotional injury case where there is no diagnostic image that shows the injury, like an x-ray or an MRI. But in some other situations, jurors are more comfortable making a substantial award for a substantial mental injury. The settlement value of the case to a large extent will be based upon the probable verdict value.

Only a tiny fraction of cases involving mental injury damages will result in a million dollar recovery. Yet it is the million dollar case that grabs the news headlines. The settlement value of most mental injury cases is based on average comparable verdicts and settlements, not on the rare case that gets the most attention from the news media. Accepting this reality is a vital part of preparing for settlement negotiations.