who makes the decision of whether or not to settle the case | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

In a legal arrangement governed by a contingency fee agreement, it is always the victim (the client) who will decide to settle the case or not. The victim still has control of the case.

Contingency fee agreements are commonly used in personal injury and medical malpractice cases. They allow individuals who might not have the financial resources to afford legal representation to access the justice system.

Here’s a comprehensive look at how the settlement decision-making process unfolds within the context of a contingency fee agreement:

Initial Consultation and Agreement

When clients approach a Virginia Beach personal injury attorney for representation in a contingency fee arrangement, they enter into a formal agreement. This agreement specifies that the attorney will receive a predetermined percentage of the compensation awarded to the client if the case is successful. The agreement also outlines the terms and conditions of representation.

Attorney’s Role

The attorney’s primary responsibility is to provide legal counsel and representation to the client throughout the litigation process. This includes tasks such as investigating the case, gathering evidence, negotiating with the opposing party, preparing for trial, and presenting the case in court if necessary. The attorney’s overarching goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for their client.

While the attorney handles the legal aspects of the case, the client retains significant decision-making authority, particularly regarding settlement offers. The client is the ultimate decision-maker in determining whether to accept or reject a settlement proposal.

Part of the attorney’s role is to provide informed advice to the client regarding settlement offers. This advice should be based on the attorney’s legal expertise and experience. They will assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case, the potential risks and rewards of proceeding to trial, and the overall fairness of the settlement offer.

The attorney should communicate all settlement offers promptly and thoroughly to the client. This includes detailing the terms of the offer, the potential outcomes of going to trial, and the potential costs associated with continued litigation.

Evaluation Factors

Clients must consider a range of factors when deciding whether to accept a settlement offer. These factors may include the strength of the evidence, the credibility of witnesses, the potential duration and expense of ongoing litigation, the potential emotional toll, and their financial needs. Additionally, the client’s own goals and priorities will play a significant role in their decision.

The attorney’s duty is to ensure that the client makes an informed decision. Clients must fully comprehend the potential consequences of their choices. This requires the attorney to explain the implications of accepting or rejecting a settlement offer, including how it might affect their financial recovery and the overall outcome of the case.

Ultimately, the decision to settle or proceed to trial rests with the client. The attorney must respect the client’s autonomy in this regard. In cases where there is a fundamental disagreement between the attorney and the client about the best course of action, the attorney may need to consider withdrawing from the case, as they cannot make decisions contrary to their client’s wishes.

Settlement Negotiations

Throughout the negotiation process, the attorney should advocate for the client’s best interests while keeping the client’s preferences and priorities in mind. They should aim to secure the most favorable settlement terms possible within the bounds of the client’s instructions.