Before entering into settlement discussions, it’s important to assess the potential value of the plaintiff’s case. Three helpful guideposts for doing this include: a valuation of the damages the plaintiff may be able to show as well as the damages provided by the relevant statute or agreement; a fact-based determination of the likelihood of the plaintiff’s success in litigation (including prevailing on a summary judgment motion); and a reasonable estimate of the attorneys’ fees involved, including whether fees are provided for by the relevant statute or agreement. You should use these guideposts not only to make your own initial assessment of the case, but also to help your client understand realistic settlement goals – whether you are representing the plaintiff or defendant.
For example, I recently represented a client with very strong legal claims for pregnancy discrimination. However, her damages were low because she quickly found another job after she was fired, and her new job paid better than her old job. Therefore, although her employer’s legal liability was a high likelihood, my client’s actual damages were low. The client and I had to balance these two factors in order to determine a reasonable settlement demand, and we ultimately reached a deal that likely would have been higher than any jury award had she prevailed at trial. By following the guideposts to assessing a case’s potential value, you and your client benefit from the objective analysis at the outset to reach a satisfactory resolution.
Please see my video on assessing the value of a case.