A settlement represents one possible resolution to a legal dispute. In personal injury law, a settlement involves the claimant accepting a final damages sum in compensation for their injuries. Settlements are “full and final”, meaning there cannot be any future requests for any more compensation relating to the same claim.
It may be that the parties to a personal injury dispute are ready to settle even though some important facts are still unclear. For example, the claimant may want to settle in order to avoid lengthening the proceedings or to pay off bills for treatment. The other side may also put a lot of pressure on the claimant to settle to end the claim sooner.
An experienced personal injury lawyer recognizes their client’s reasons to settle early but would likely advise against it. It is important that the lawyer and client wait until either a clear prognosis is available or the client has made a full medical recovery, before settling.
A clear prognosis means a comprehensive report prepared by a medical practitioner that initially outlines in detail the injuries of the claimant. Beyond describing the injuries and their current effects, a prognosis gives an indication of the risks on the client in the future. This includes any further treatment that may be necessary as well as future work or living restrictions.
A clear prognosis reduces any remaining uncertainty about the extent of the client’s injuries. It also helps the client and their lawyer to better determine the total lifetime costs of the injuries. Costs can include related future treatment expenses, lost income opportunities, compensation for pain and suffering, among other things.
The lawyer’s main concern with settling before a clear prognosis is that if that is done, all future risks are put on the shoulders of the injured person. That is not how an injury claim should be resolved.