How Does The Negotiation Process Work In DC Courts?

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When you file a personal injury lawsuit in Washington D.C., you may have some preconceived ideas. Based on what we commonly see on television shows and courtroom dramas, you may expect your case to go to trial and be heard by a jury. However, the reality is that the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits will be settled before ever getting to a jury. Instead of a trial, the parties involved engage in negotiations to come up with settlement terms that are agreeable to everyone involved.

Fast-paced courtroom dramas rarely spend much time on the negotiation process, which leaves most people unfamiliar with how negotiations work. It is important to understand what the negotiation process is like for your own personal injury case. Your experienced personal injury attorney should talk to you about how negotiations work, keep you advised of the process, and answer any questions you have. If you have any questions or concerns about the negotiation process, make sure you ask your personal injury lawyer.


The most common way a case is settled is through basic negotiation between the lawyers involved. Negotiation involves a consensual bargaining process where the parties try to come to an agreement on a disputed matter. This usually takes place between the parties involved, without the courts or judge taking an active role. A negotiation is not a one-time event, but may continue over the course of weeks or months, at the same time as the case proceeds through the courts.

Negotiations may begin after the lawsuit is filed. Once the injured party recovers and they get to a point where no further physical improvement is expected, then both sides will be able to approximate the full extent of the injury involved. Compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit are intended, as much as possible, to put the injured party in the position they were in before they were injured. Once the extent of the injuries is understood, then the parties can move towards agreeing upon a dollar value for the compensatory damages.

One of the primary benefits of negotiations as compared to a jury trial is that both parties can come up with the settlement terms that best fit the case. The plaintiff and defendant have control over the process, and do not need the court, judge or jury to determine the terms of the settlement. There is a great amount of uncertainty involved in a personal injury trial. A judge may prevent your expert from testifying about an important aspect of your injury, or a jury may simply not like a plaintiff and decide against them in the case, leaving them with no recovery. The certainty of getting a fair settlement can be comforting for the injured plaintiff.

Another benefit is the time and cost savings of a settlement. Even if it has taken months or even years to get to trial, settling the case just before trial can save the plaintiff significant time, money, and stress. A jury trial may take a long time to be scheduled if the court has a backlog of cases. Jury selection, the trial process, and jury deliberations may add months before a decision is reached in your case. Additionally, having to go to court day after day and sit through arguments about the case may be stressful for the injured plaintiff having to relive the accident all over again.

Mediation and Evaluation

In Washington D.C., civil lawsuits may go through alternative dispute resolution. The Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division attempts to help parties resolve cases through mediation, neutral case evaluation, or other alternatives to a trial. This can reduce the backlog in the civil court system, help parties reach mutually agreeable outcomes, and save the parties time and money.

Mediation in a personal injury lawsuit is voluntary, non-binding, and a flexible form of alternative dispute resolution. It involves a neutral third party communicating with the plaintiff and defendant to help them come to a mutually acceptable settlement. The mediator will not decide the case, but instead work to facilitate settlement terms. If an agreement is reached, the mediator will write up the terms, and submit the agreement to the court. If an agreement is not reached, the case will continue to trial.

Another form of alternative dispute resolution is a neutral case evaluation. This process involves a third-party decision-maker who will evaluate the case, and provide an opinion on the outcome and value of the case. They will listen to each party present their side of the case, identify areas of dispute, and provide a non-binding assessment of the likelihood that the plaintiff will succeed on certain issues, and even offer a settlement value. After an evaluation, the parties can continue to negotiate, schedule mediation, or continue towards trial.

Washington D.C. Personal Injury Lawyers

After filing a personal injury lawsuit, most cases settle through the negotiation process. This is why it is important for you to understand how negotiations work, and stay informed of how negotiations are progressing. Your experienced Washington D.C. personal injury attorney will be able to guide you through the process and advise you of each step to take along the way. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to someone’s negligence, please do not hesitate to call Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.

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