Personal injury claims such as those seeking compensation because someone was injured in a car crash, hit by a car or was involved in a pedestrian accident or other highway mishap don’t always end up as a trial in court. Quite often, in fact, the parties involved settle claims through vigorous negotiation and third-party advocacy.
The Butte County Local Rules of Civil Procedure include specific provisions regarding settlement of civil lawsuits. For example, the court adopts a policy that efforts made in good faith to settle civil proceedings are essential to the judicial process.
A settlement conference is a meeting between or among opposing parties to a lawsuit intended to allow them to agreeably resolve the disputed claims without the need for a trial. Parties and their legal counsel meet with a settlement judge. He or she hears both sides, helps resolve issues and facilitates a compromise if possible. The judge usually doesn’t make any decisions, but rather, critiques the presentation and advises how the information might lead to a decision in court. Some details of the procedure may differ under state laws, but the process is generally the same in any court.
Under Butte County Local Rules, each person required to attend a settlement conference must have full authority to negotiate and make decisions about the case. Legal counsel attending must have a thorough knowledge of all evidence concerning liability and damages. Counsel assigned to try the case if it should proceed to trial must be present at the conference. Any person or entity with a claim or lien affecting a settlement must be notified in writing to attend.
In a case claiming damages due to a car crash or other personal injury, medical reports and records must be included in the required Settlement Conference Statement. Any depositions, investigative reports, insurance documents, medical records and other relevant information are brought to the conference to be made available to the settlement conference judge. The court may sanction any party to the litigation that hasn’t proceeded with good faith, due diligence or has otherwise not complied with the settlement conference rules.
Source: Butte Court Local Rules, “Section 3.10 Settlement Conferences,” accessed April. 30, 2015