Settling out of court may be considered the “easy way out” for most litigants as it is a fast and sometimes more commercially viable method of resolving disputes as opposed to letting the court system take its course. However, while it may be tempting to jump at the first offer of settlement, there are several reasons why it is important to consult an attorney before settling a claim, especially a damage claim. Set out below are some of the legal reasons:-
(a) Trust the expert
Attorneys are professionals who live and breathe the law. They are skilled in their field and would know all about settling damage claims. There is no reason why it would not be beneficial to consult an attorney before settling a damage claim as their in-depth experience and insight would be invaluable. They may see things from a legal perspective which you as a litigant or layman may not notice, or even realise the implication of. It is thus always necessary to consult an expert (in this case, the attorney) before taking any step that may affect your rights, liabilities, or obligations.
(b) Full and final settlement?
Attorneys will know how to draft the appropriate settlement agreement to ensure that this damage claim is the last one that you will ever have to deal with in respect of that particular subject matter. A poorly drafted settlement agreement can leave open many doors for potential relitigation on matters which were allegedly not covered under the settlement. Don’t expose yourself to that risk – consult an attorney to draft the relevant agreement and documentation for you.
(c) Without prejudice
Nothing is worse than meeting with your opponent and offering a settlement, only to have that settlement be rejected and then admitted into evidence during the trial as alleged proof of your admission of guilt or liability. While even the most common of simpletons will eventually learn to tack on the phrase “without prejudice” to their settlement discussions and proposals, the blind use of this phrase is not enough to protect you and make your correspondence privileged. As usual, consult an attorney as they will be able to properly advise you on how to keep your correspondence privilege and protected from disclosure. They will also be able to advise you on how to ensure that your privilege is not accidentally or inadvertently waived, hence exposing you to more risk and liability.