Settlement or Lawsuit – 4 Ways to Resolve a Personal Injury Claim

If you have been involved in a personal injury claim, whether it be a car accident, motorcycle accident, dog bite, or an assault and battery, there are many ways in which your case can be resolved.* Each case is unique, and will have a different recommendation from our team on the best course for resolution based on many factors. The following are the different ways in which your case can be resolved:


The most straightforward and common way a personal injury 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.


Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to ways to resolve cases outside of a courtroom. One of the most common forms of ADR is Mediation. At anytime during the duration of a personal injury 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 their opinion as to how the case may resolve if it proceeded to court. While there is no requirement to reach an agreement or settlement during a mediation, most claims that are mediated eventually settle. Some mediations can take several sessions over the course of several months.


Another form of ADR is Arbitration. Similar to mediations, at anytime during the duration of a claim, both sides can agree to submit the case to an arbitrator. An arbitrator is typically 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. Sometimes the parties elect participate in a “high/low arbitration” where the parties specify to the arbitrator that the award will be no higher than a certain amount, and no lower than another amount, which gives some predictability to the award. This is essentially both sides’ day in “court,” where they can plead their case and give statements. 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.

Civil Lawsuit

If a settlement cannot be reached for whatever reason, and the parties don’t want to participate in ADR, the next step is to file a civil lawsuit. In Massachusetts, if the value of your case is worth under $50,000 then it is filed in District Court. If case is worth more than $50,000, then it is filed in Superior Court. In civil cases, it can take 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. During Discovery, parties will submit a series of requests to each other, Interrogatories, Requests for Documents, Requests for Admissions, and more, in order to develop the facts of the case and gather all relevant documents. Parties may also take the Depositions of various people involved in the case to establish facts. While a civil lawsuit is pending, a settlement can still be reached at anytime and parties can also submit to ADR at any time. We typically see that cases are settled before they reach a trial. 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.

The Law Offices of Robert D. Ahearn has over 37 years of combined experience handling personal injury claims. Based on our extensive experience in all forms of the resolutions listed above, we will guide you as to which approach will be the best way to resolve your claim. Please call us today to discuss your case. (617) 773-8890

*Please note that a workers’ compensation claim, without a third party claim, is treated differently under state laws that govern workers’ compensation claims.

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