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You’ve been presented with a settlement offer, possibly after years of legal wrangling. On its face, it could make this entire headache disappear once and for all with a simple signature.

But the number doesn’t feel right to you. It’s not enough to make you whole after all you’ve been through. You want more – a lot more – and you’re weighing whether to gamble it all on trial instead of lock boxing this present cash.

The stakes could not be higher. Don’t make this decision lightly, because rejecting a settlement puts plenty on the line beyond just money.

Rejecting a Settlement Offer Increases Litigation Chances

Telling the opposition to take a hike on their settlement makes it more likely that you will end up in court.

When those papers get filed giving them the big “no thank you,” the litigation gears start grinding in ways that can reshape your entire life moving forward. There’s no going back to how things were.

Rejection Consequences: Protracted Legal Battles and Privacy Loss

From the moment you reject that settlement, your most intimate personal details get passed around and inspected. Every aspect of your life, from finances to medical history to personal relationships and beyond, will become fatto accompli for dredging up in open court.

You also need to brace for the titanic time suck that is pre-trial litigation. Day after day after day gets devoured with interrogatories, depositions, hearings, strategizing and more strategy sessions. The blitz is relentless and inescapable.

Rejection Consequences: Financial Costs

Then there’s also the financial hit you will take.

Much has been made already of legal fees – and how much of a sinkhole they are. Just be aware, though, that lawyer fees is just the beginning.  

Beyond legal fees, you’ll be on the hook for ancillary costs like:

  • Discovery fees (pulling and processing records)
  • Court fees
  • Exhibit costs
  • Travel for you and your legal team
  • Witnesses (expert and regular)
  • General case operations and administration

Sure, you can try nickel-and-diming the operation to keep it lean. But cases inevitably bloat over time in ways nobody can foresee. 

Settlement Offer Rejection as a Part of Negotiation Tactics

All that said, occasionally rejecting a settlement can be the only logical path – and one that works to your clear strategic advantage. Here are some scenarios where walking away makes good sense.

Settlement Offer Rejection on Principle

Is egregious injustice fueling your case that simply cannot be remedied with a financial settlement? Like a defective product that maimed children? Or a corporate scheme that defrauded thousands of seniors out of life savings?

Some cases have a moral clarion call so loud that no settlement offer could begin to muffle it. In these instances, rejecting any settlement is the only tenable response – no matter the personal cost – because pursuing total litigation vindication becomes a noble ethical crusade.

When You’re Fed Up and Need a Judge to Decide It

Sometimes you and your opposition are simply locked in a standoff. You’ve made countless settlement offers and counteroffers over the years. But the gaps in your “asks” are elephantine and no amount of shuttle diplomacy can bridge the gap.

At a certain point, the whole negotiation exercise starts to feel farcical and futile. You’ve fundamentally reached an impasse, with neither side able to budge an inch ideologically.

In times like these, continued rejections are the only logical choice. You simply punt the dispute to a third-party judge or jury because you’re hopelessly deadlocked in perpetuity.

No deal will satisfy, so you take your chances with the aleatory unpredictability of random court assignment. A judge, not the opposing side, will decide your legal rights and remedies, once and for all.

When Precedent and Public Opinion Hugely Favor You

Oh, you’d love to settle and pocket the money. But you recognize the profound precedent-setting implications for accepting anything less than a massive settlement.

The evidence, facts, public opinion, and equities are so starkly in your favor that accepting even a mid-range settlement would be seen as a comprehensive injustice. When you believe that your case is so monumental and clear-cut that the only acceptable outcome is full litigation glory – and the record-shattering award to match.

Baiting the Upside Settlement Unicorn Scenario

For all the unpalatable downsides of rejecting settlement offers, there is a unicorn-rare scenario where it hands you immense upside leverage:

Going to trial and securing an astronomical award so unprecedented, so record-shatteringly lopsided in your favor, that you permanently reset national compensation standards for your particular type of case.

After such an outcome, every subsequent plaintiff nationally can point to your haul and say “beat this number.”

Your unicorn jackpot effectively creates a new settlement floor that forces defendants to capitulate on more reasonable terms for decades to come to avoid the possibility of total courtroom calamity.

The Art of Settlement Negotiation

Of course, to maneuver yourself into that position of courtroom leverage often requires deft settlement negotiation skills first. 

Here are some tactics to use:

Start High from the Start

When the opposition fires that opening salvo settlement offer at you, don’t simply laugh and counter with a slightly higher number.

If you’re going to fight this thing out, start with an anchoring counter-demand that may seem so silly and outlandish. Make it 4-5x higher than their offer.

Why? Because negotiations tend to drift toward whichever anchor point gets implanted first. That silly high demand now becomes the new center of gravity you’ll be negotiating back down from.

Take Advantage of Cherry-Picked Precedents

The opposition will come armed with precedents on why their settlement offer is generous and fair. To counter that, you’ll need some precedents of your own.

Not just any precedents, of course. You’ll want to marshal together a bank of precedents that:

  • Come from plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions
  • Showcase only the most lopsided pro-plaintiff outcomes
  • Have connections to your case

Then, wield those precedents as the truth on why their current offer is obscenely low. 

Contact Us

If you need help negotiating a favorable settlement offer, or if you simply do not know which steps to take after a settlement offer, we are here to help. At Husain Law + Associates — Houston Accident & Injury Lawyers, P.C., we have built a reputation for passionately fighting on behalf of our clients to ensure that they get the maximum possible compensation. Call us at (713) 804-8149 for a free consultation, and let us help you get what you deserve.


About the Author


Husain Law Firm

Nomaan K. Husain is the founder of Husain Law + Associates — Houston Accident & Injury Lawyers, P.C., a Houston-based law firm specializing in Litigation, Immigration, and Aviation. He is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law and Personal Injury Trial Law, with law licenses in Texas, New York, and other jurisdictions. Mr. Husain serves in key community roles, including as Commissioner on President Biden's White House Commission on Fellowships and Chairman of Houston's Asian American Pacific Islander Advisory Board. He's been recognized with several awards, such as the Global Leader Award from the Houston World Affairs Council.

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