If you're involved in a lawsuit, you should know that most cases settle out of court. In fact, it's estimated that as many as 92% of cases are resolved through settlement, as The New York Times reported.
In settlement talks you, as a party, are an active decider. You need to know how to make good choices, and also have some idea of what strategies you're going to use.
A settlement is similar to a negotiation in terms of the process. But if you're not familiar with either, here are seven ways to make you feel more like a pro:
- Know what feels fair. This is the most important part of preparing for a settlement conference. If you don't know what you want out of the deal, you won't know if or why it seems unfair. Work out what your bottom line is before you start so you know what you're looking for.
- Separate needs from wants. Before the settlement is over you're going to have to do some bargaining. Carefully consider what you need to feel satisfied versus what you want but could bargain away for the right price.
- Determine your alternatives. The reason most cases settle is because it's a better outcome for one or both parties than going to trial. Will you have a hard time at trial or is it worth holding out and maybe going before a judge?
- Figure out the other side's wants. Knowing what your opponent wants is a huge step. That will give you some idea of whether you can offer it or whether you won't be able to reach a deal.
- Be a good listener. It's tempting to spend a lot of time making your needs known, but resist the urge. You can learn a lot more from listening to what the other side is saying, and perhaps what they're not saying.
- Watch your language. Things can get emotional and heated during settlement negotiations. Not only can you say things you later regret, but you can also give away something without meaning to. Trust your lawyer to do the talking if you think you might say the wrong thing.
- Reject bullying. Some lawyers, and their clients, think they can intimidate the other party by being gruff and loud during settlement negotiations. But remember that it takes two to reach a settlement. If the other side can't keep things civil, you can take the case to trial.
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