Settlements are the most common way for injury lawsuits to be resolved, yet sometimes a well-planned settlement is rejected by the court.
Take for example the NFL's proposed concussion settlement to compensate some 4,500 former players. A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the $760 million proposal may not be enough to pay all of the injured ex-players who were part of the class action.
The judge in the NFL case is now asking for more financial details, so the settlement may still be salvaged. Generally speaking, however, here are three typical reasons why injury settlements fall apart:
1. Not Enough Money.
Although attorneys may (rightfully) gas on about justice and fairness in obtaining a settlement for their clients, the meat of most injury settlements is money. And when a settlement is rejected by the court, the "beef" is typically with the dollar figure, not the feelings of justice.
There may be only a slight difference between a rejected amount and a court-approved one. A settlement for the 9/11 rescue and cleanup workers who were injured at Ground Zero had to be bumped from $657 to $712 million before it was accepted by a federal judge in 2010 -- a difference of 8 percent.
2. Disproportionate Split.
In class action settlements, a great deal of time goes into divvying up the settlement money to the various persons in the suit. If too much money is being given to the lawyers or class representatives as compared to the other members of the class, a court can reject the settlement.
However, "disproportionate" isn't exactly a hard and fast concept. Attorneys and class representatives can still be paid millions in a court-accepted settlement that pays class members much less.
3. Unfavorable Terms/Bad Faith.
All settlement agreements must be entered into with good faith and fair dealing by all parties. It's possible for a judge to reject a settlement in which one party is clearly being railroaded by the other -- particularly if a large corporation is involved.
As long as it is in good faith and generally fair, a settlement may still be accepted even if it leaves one party on the hook for a fortune. For example, you may recall that BP proposed a settlement for billions of dollars in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2012 -- a settlement which was later accepted, much to BP's chagrin.
Settlements can also be rejected by either party just as easily as the court. But only an experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate your case and advise you on the best way to proceed.