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When It's Not About The Money: The Non-Financial Aspects Of Personal Injury Settlements

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Even though the money you receive from your personal injury case will help to compensate for your medical bills, emotional pain and suffering, and other similar damages, the fine print on the settlement contract can mean just as much as the money -- if not more. There are some common requests and concessions made during settlement agreements for you to consider when making your demands. You may be able to prevent anyone else from having to have the same experience as you if you play your cards right.

Think about the policy.

Your personal injury attorney can make any number of requests on your behalf, including requests for behavior or policy change. For example, if your daughter was injured at a summer camp because a life jacket had broken buckles, you can definitely request that the company owning or running the camp have yearly safety inspections, or that they change their policy about where and how life jackets are stored. This prevents any future children from suffering the same injuries as your own child.

Think about the public.

Many companies, especially those who depend on the public for the majority of their business, do not like to see a personal injury lawsuit become overly ugly or widely spread through media channels. Their legal representation may agree to sign any settlement you wish, with the provision that you sign a confidentiality agreement.

Basically, this contract means that you are legally not allowed to take your story to the press, to share it with any major public offices, or to spread it around on common social media sites. You and your family will have to keep quiet. This helps to preserve the public image of the company, but the lack of publicity may also make others more susceptible to future injury from the same company. In fact, even though confidentiality clauses are legal, the American Bar Association believes that settlements should be open to public scrutiny -- that is what the law is for. If one of your motivations for pursuing your lawsuit is to prevent the defendant from imposing further injury, you should talk to your lawyer about the consequences of not signing the proposed confidentiality agreement.

However, if you wish for your own privacy in the matter, a confidentiality clause may be a great way for you to keep living a normal life, especially if you are fighting against a well-known entity with a hot-button topic, such as same-sex marriage. The public instantly becomes more involved with cases that add to the current social conversations. You are at liberty to ask for confidentiality, even if you are the plaintiff. 

Think about additional benefits.

If you are collecting money for damages, you can also be creative with your requests. If your main goal in your lawsuit is to prevent anything like your injury from ever happening again, you can request that money from the settlement be donated to help facilitate change. You could even request that, instead of providing money, that the defendant provide something of value to the cause, such as donated company supplies, time, or products. 

If you feel like the settlement is not going your way, it is time to talk to your lawyer about whether or not you should take the issue before a judge. There is a chance you could lose your case, but the judge can mandate behavior and policy changes in the verdict, forcing your opponent to comply. For example, if you were suing a school district for discrimination against your child due to gender, the judge would easily be able to order and enforce a rapid change in policy, which might not come with just a settlement contract. Sometimes, having a higher power involved can be beneficial.