Settlement or Lawsuit – 4 Ways to Resolve a Car Accident Claim

Law Offices of Robert D Ahearn Car accident and personal injury attorneysIf you have been involved in a car accident, or if you have been injured as a result of someone else’s fault, whether it be a motorcycle accident, dog bite, an assault and battery or another way, your claim can be resolved in a number of different ways.  (Please note that a workers’ compensation claim, without a third party claim, is treated differently under state laws that govern workers’ compensation claims.)


The most straightforward and common way a car accident claim is resolved is by a straight settlement.  Probably 80-85% of car accident and personal injury cases reach a settlement at this stage, prior to filing a lawsuit.   As a plaintiff’s attorney, we put together all the medical records and bills, outline our theory of liability and make a demand.  We start high, the insurance company starts low and we try to meet in the middle.  The value of your case depends on many factors including total amount of your medical bills, length of treatment, type of injuries, any permanent injuries, lost wages and out of pocket expenses.  Most times a settlement can be reached.  If not, we go to options outlined below.

Civil Lawsuit

When a settlement cannot be reached for whatever reason (low ball offer, liability issues or other reasons) the next step is to file a civil lawsuit.  In Massachusetts, if the value of your case is worth under $25,000 then it is filed in District Court.  If case is worth more than $25,000, then it is filed in Superior Court.  It takes approximately 1-1 ½ years to get a trial date.  In the meantime, the claim is shifted from an insurance adjuster to their defense counsel and the parties go through a period of what’s called discovery. (Answering Interrogatories, depositions…etc).  While a civil lawsuit is pending,  a settlement can still be reached at anytime while it is pending.  If there is a trial it may be before a judge or a jury.  It depends on whether or not the Plaintiff and/or the Defendant requested a jury trial at the commencement of the action.  After a trial, there may also be an appeal.


At anytime, both sides can agree to submit the case to an arbitrator.  An arbitrator is usually a retired Judge or an experienced and trusted attorney.  The arbitrator makes a binding decision on liability and, if necessary, the value of the claim.  Both sides have to agree to arbitrate and have to agree on which arbitrator to use.  This is both sides’ day in “court”.   This is great way to resolve a claim because it is quick, informal, relatively inexpensive and usually beneficial for a plaintiff.  An arbitration can last anywhere from one hour or two to several days.  Our office has arbitrated hundreds and hundreds of cases.  We have used a host of excellent arbitrators.  Some of the arbitrators we recommend are Brian Jerome of Mass Dispute Resolution, Mark Karsner of Karsner & Meehan and John Glynn of Glynn Mediation.  There are hundreds of well qualified and experienced arbitrators in the State of Massachusetts.


Again, at anytime during the pendency of a claim, both sides can agree to mediate the claim.  Both sides have to agree to mediate and have to agree on which mediator to use.  At mediation, both sides sit in a conference room around a table.  Each side gives a brief synopsis of their case to the mediator at the initial session.  The parties are then separated into separate rooms.  The mediator then goes back and forth and attempts to negotiate a settlement.  The mediator points out to each side the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases and gives his/her opinion as to how the case may resolve if it proceeded to court.  Most claims that are mediated eventually settle.  Some mediations can take several sessions over the course of several months.  Some of the mediators we recommend are Brian Jerome of Mass Dispute Resolution, Mark Karsner of Karsner & Meehan  and John Glynn of Glynn Mediation.

The Law Offices of Robert D. Ahearn has over 21 years of experience handling car accident claims and personal injury claims.  We will guide you as to which approach will be the best way to resolve your claim.


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