How Are Product Liability Cases Usually Settled?
Like most litigation types, numerous factors determine whether a product liability case will settle. The most significant determinant is the particular type of case. The more complicated issues and case types in the product liability field typically do not settle early in the litigation timeline.
An automobile personal injury case is prone to settle early in the litigation process, without the necessity of going to trial. On the other hand, product liability, medical malpractice, and premises liability cases are often not expected to settle early in the litigation process. This occurs because these latter types of complex cases usually need a trial to arrive at liability and damages determinations. Sometimes, a determination from the court on liability is needed before parties can realistically assess damage outcomes for settlement negotiations.
Each Litigation Case Is Unique
It's difficult to draw generalities or make predictions, as each product liability case is unique. As such, these cases can require more (or sometimes less) time than other personal injury cases to resolve or reach disposition. There is no generality or typical experience because of the nature of litigation and its uniqueness. Common experiences in defective product cases can provide helpful illustrations, however. On the short side, defective product claims can reach settlement in one to three months, or on the long side, in two or three years.
Case Complexities in Facts or Issues Determines Ease of Settlement
For product liability cases with complex facts or issues, the time required for the phases of the case devoted to discovery can be lengthy. For example, it may take a significant period of time to:
- conduct depositions
- review expert witnesses
- evaluate exchanged written materials and documents
These phases must often be completed in a thorough and detailed manner for the parties to have a complete understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the case and the likely outcomes at trial. Without a complete understanding of all of the legal issues presented by the case and the testimony that will probably be presented at trial by each side, the litigation parties lack sufficient information to properly evaluate the probability of success at trial.
This evaluation ability is critical to making, assessing, responding to, and countering settlement offers, as well. It is not unusual to require years in a case's lifespan to reach the point of having meaningful settlement discussions. It is also possible to have one of the infamous settlements on the eve of trial at the courthouse steps.
Insurance May Factor Into Settlement
Some insurance policies for companies such as manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers have "consent to settle" clauses. These insurance clauses permit the insured to make the decision of whether his case will ultimately settle (as opposed to the insurance company or its counsel). If a "consent to settle" clause exists in an insurance policy, then the insurer is not allowed to settle a litigation case without the insured policyholder's consent.
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