One of the first things that many of our personal injury clients ask is “will my case go to trial?” This question comes from every type of case we represent: be it an 18-wheeler truck accident, a dog bite or premises liability case, or a car wreck case.
It’s understandable that you’ll want to get an idea of what you’re getting into before talking to a lawyer, and rest assured, most personal injury cases will settle outside of court.
What’s the Difference Between a Trial and a Settlement?
After a car accident or other personal injury case, there are two ways to collect damages from the negligent individual. The defendant or insurance company can offer a settlement that the plaintiff accepts, or the plaintiff goes through a civil lawsuit to collect compensation.
A settlement occurs when an insurer or defendant and the plaintiff agree upon an offer of payment to the injured person. An offer can be made before a lawsuit is even filed, while the case has gone to trial, or even while a jury is deliberating. Once the settlement agreement is reached, the plaintiff relinquishes claims arising out of that specific incident, and signs a release.
While a civil lawsuit may ultimately give the plaintiff more money than a settlement, trials can be risky and stressful for both parties, which is why settlements are typically reached before a lawsuit is even filed.
Why do most personal injury cases settle?
When an insurance company is involved, personal injury cases will almost always reach a settlement. There are several reasons for this. The first is, of course, the money. Insurance companies are ultimately a business. They have the money to pay out claims and even expect it. It is expensive for an insurance company to go to trial. There are large legal fees regardless of the outcome. Worse, at the end of the day, they can’t control that outcome. The insurance company would rather have some say in the settlement decision than leave it in the hands of a sympathetic jury that has the power to award large pain and suffering damages to the plaintiff.
Settlements can also benefit the defendant if there is a reason they’d like to stay out of the public eye. For example, if only a few people are injured by a defective product, the company may like to keep major publicity away. When drafting the settlement, the defendant company may include a confidentiality requirement that the plaintiff would sign. In exchange, the company may be more likely to offer a larger settlement amount.
How Do Settlements Benefit the Plaintiff?
Settling an injury lawsuit out of court can provide several advantages for the plaintiff as well as the defendant. First of all, the process of going to trial can be lengthy. Typically, a case won’t even begin trial until a year after the initial claim was filed. Then, the trial itself may extend for months, or even years if there are appeals.
If you have been injured, you likely have medical expenses, and don’t want to wait that long for financial relief. The length of a trial may be stressful, and you might not be up to it given your health.
Privacy in Settlements
Settlements are private, but trials are not. While we mentioned this as a positive for the defendant, it benefits the plaintiff as well. During trial, both parties may try to make one another look bad, and that information will be available for anyone to read. In settlements, parties are in control of what can be public—including the settlement amount.
While a settlement may not award a plaintiff as much a trial could, they at least know they will get something. When a case is taken to court, there is a (usually slim) chance that the plaintiff will lose the case, and receive no compensation.
What If The Settlement Attempts Fail?
Settlements are usually in the best interest of both parties. When the plaintiff and defendant agree, both can put the incident behind them. However, settlements are not always possible, and there are a few reasons why.
Sometimes, a defendant won’t offer a settlement at all. If they don’t believe themselves responsible for the incident, they may not put an offer on the table. This would leave the plaintiff no choice but to go to court. Another possibility is that the defendant and plaintiff cannot agree upon an amount.
It may benefit the plaintiff to begin court filings or proceedings simply to get the attention of an unwavering insurance company. They may be more likely to pay up when the plaintiff’s attorney makes it clear that they’ll do more than threaten the possibility of taking the case to court.
How do I Know if My Case will go to Court?
Like we said, most of the time, personal injury cases will settle outside of court. The best thing you can do if you’ve been injured because of the negligent actions of another, is to contact a personal injury attorney. A lawyer will be able to help you navigate the process, and advise you on whether or not an offer is fair. At Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers, our attorneys exclusively practice personal injury law, so we are experienced in looking into every possible avenue to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.
If you’ve been in an accident, call us at 314-444-4444 for a free, no-obligation consultation. We’re here to help.