What is a settlement?
A settlement is a resolution reached by the parties involved in a case, rather than one ordered by a judge.
Settlements are often achieved through negotiations, or some other form of dispute resolution, and can be reached before or after a judge-led trial begins.
Many civil cases are completed in this manner in an attempt to avoid long, costly and uncertain trials.
Within the negotiation period, if it is agreed that compensation is owed, parties will determine how much money is to be offered to victims between themselves. Settlement awards can be paid in one go or in several instalments.
What are the benefits of settling?
There are many benefits to settling a lawsuit, including:
- Avoiding the adverse publicity that arises from a prolonged trial
- Putting an end to a trial that would otherwise be time-consuming and expensive
- Potentially helping to maintain relationships between parties amicably.
The UK legal system is designed to encourage settlement either directly between the parties, or by mediation. If parties are unwilling to take a reasonable approach to negotiations, it can affect the costs that they incur.
What are the terms of a settlement?
When negotiating a settlement, no party is legally required to accept liability or to offer compensation; although this often happens.
Among the statutory requirements, the rules of the contract also apply. These include:
- Offer and acceptance: Must be written transparently and agreed by all parties
- Consideration: This usually entails giving up the right to any further claims
- Intention to create legal relations: Material elements must be laid out. If not, a court may decide the agreement is not adequately complete.
Under usual circumstances, the written terms will include information surrounding who will pay, how much will be paid out, what will happen after an agreement is made, and any bespoke terms that are negotiated.
World famous settlements
Some of the largest payouts in legal history have come from settlement decisions. As an example, the three biggest claims settled in history include cases concerning tobacco, oil, and vehicle emissions.
- In 1998, Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, and two other tobacco companies agreed to a minimum of a $206 billion settlement to cover medical costs for smoking-related illnesses.
- In 2016, a federal judge approved an estimated $20 billion settlement resolving civil claims over environmental damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
- Also in 2016, a $14.7 billion settlement was approved by a federal judge after allegations that Volkswagen had cheated emission tests on its diesel cars in the USA.
PGMBM are currently fighting to attain justice for victims in England and Wales in matters similar to that which arose in the US VW case. We are passionate about holding Volkswagen, Mercedes, Fiat Chrysler and the Renault Nissan Alliance to account for their actions.
Head to pgmbm.com for more information.