The vast majority of civil cases are settled before anyone needs to go to trial, most often because all parties involved are able to reach an agreement before the set trial date. One of the most common places these settlements are reached is at a settlement conference. Under New Jersey Courts Rule 4:5B-3, courts are permitted to conduct a settlement conference in any civil action at the request of either party involved or the court itself.
Other than Track IV cases, New Jersey courts are only allowed to hold one court-mandated or court-initiated settlement conference before the date of the trial. A second conference can be held on the date of the trial or immediately before the trial begins, as long as the trial begins if the parties cannot come to an agreement.
While settlement conferences aren’t mandatory in New Jersey, they may provide a mutually beneficial option that is both less expensive and faster than taking the case to court. These conferences are presided over by a judge, and either held in their private chambers or in a private conference room. Most of the time they’re utilized in personal injury cases like product liability, medical malpractice, and car accidents among others.
In most cases, all parties and their legal counsel are required to attend the settlement conference. Both sides are generally required to provide the judge with information about the case, including relevant evidence and facts, before the conference begins so that they can prepare to hear presentations from the parties involved. Each party will meet with the judge in private to present their case, and the judge may go between the parties in an attempt to facilitate a settlement agreement.
Even if a settlement can’t be reached during the conference, the judge may recommend a second settlement conference at a later date once more information has come to light. However, if the parties involved can reach an agreement, then the attorneys will be asked to write up a memorandum covering the settlement terms. Once the formal agreement is signed by all parties involved and filed, the judge will dismiss the lawsuit.
The negotiation process can be complicated, and it’s important to have qualified legal representation to ensure that you receive the maximum possible compensation. At Levinson Axelrod, our New Jersey personal injury attorneys have secured over $1 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients, and $250 million of that came within the past five years. For more information, you can fill out our online form to request a free consultation, or call us at (732) 440-3089 to speak with one of our personal injury lawyers.