There are law firms in Birmingham and the State of Alabama that appear to place a premium on settling their cases without working them up and filing them in court. There is nothing wrong with that in some cases, while in others, settlement without filing costs the client a lot of money — perhaps 3-4 times the amount of the settlement.
If the value of the case is small, i.e., under $50,000, then an early settlement is often the best route, since the out-of-pocket expenses to file and prepare the case for trial will consume most of the expected recovery.
If the case is a products liability case or a medical malpractice case, the value has to be in the hundreds of thousands for a products liability case and about a million dollars for a medical malpractice case to justify filing these cases in court. Crashworthiness cases or auto design cases also have to be in the million dollar range to justify filing them in court. If the values are less than this the best course of action is to attempt an early settlement.
However, in those cases that are large enough to justify filing and preparing, an early settlement is rarely to the advantage of the plaintiff. Absent a problem with insurance coverage or a solvent defendant, an early settlement of these cases can easily cost the plaintiff 3-4 times the amount of the settlement. Unfortunately, it appears that this may be happening more and more. Individuals with potential personal injury and death claims should question any attorneys they consult about their settlement/litigation practices to be sure an early settlement does not cost them large sums of money.
If you have a potential case, talk to us first. We will sit down with you to talk about your specific case and let you choose the option that works best for your individual situation.
-Lloyd Gathings, attorney and senior partner at Gathings Law