“Should I settle my personal injury case or take it to trial?” is a common question I often receive and one that is not simple to answer as no two cases are ever the same.
While an experienced personal injury attorney is ready to go to trial, one may not always be recommended, as it all depends on the nature of your case. This is where the expertise and professional recommendation of a personal injury lawyer comes in. Partnering with an attorney will help you make the crucial decision of settling or taking your case to court.
The large majority of personal injury and defective product cases are successfully settled outside of the courtroom. In fact, only about 1 in 20 personal injury cases are resolved in court. In the event that you have suffered a serious injury because of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, it’s important to learn the risks and benefits of settling a personal injury case vs. going to trial.
Accepting a Settlement vs. Going to Trial
A settlement means that the case has been voluntarily resolved outside of the courtroom between your party (the plaintiff) and the other party (the defendant) without requiring an admission of fault. For this to occur, out-of-court negotiations begin between your attorney and the opposing side. A formal request, called a demand, is sent to the opposing party asking that they compensate you for the injuries and damages incurred. Both parties need to agree on a fair amount that is rightfully owed so there may be some back and forth negotiating involved. After an amount has been agreed upon between both parties, the settlement is paid and the other party is released from any past and future liability involving this case. The lawsuit is also dismissed.
If your case goes to trial, your attorney will present your argument to a judge or jury, leaving the decision and settlement amount in their hands. They decide if the defendant should be held liable for the plaintiff’s damages.
Your personal injury attorney will advise you on your options, but it is always the client’s decision on whether to settle or go to trial.
Benefits of Settling a Case
1. Faster Turnaround
Oftentimes, the process of settling a case is quicker outside of court, meaning you will also get paid quickly, too. After a settlement, it will typically only take between a week to thirty days to receive the agreed-upon compensation. After a lawsuit begins, it can take up to a year or more for the trial to begin and can last anywhere from a few hours, days or weeks. On the other hand, a settlement can take anywhere between three to six months to complete.
2. Less Costly
At Cavanaugh Law, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means we are only paid if we recover compensation for your injuries through a settlement or jury verdict in your favor. However, unlike an attorney, other people involved including expert witnesses may not work on a contingency basis. In addition, the preparation and process involved with the trial process will still be costly and can include the money lost by missing work and court fees, which you will be responsible for owing from the compensation you recover. When settling, you have control over what is spent and how much you recover.
3. Comparable or Better Financial Outcomes
You may be surprised to learn that pre-trial settlement amounts are often comparable to the compensation received after a trial. However, if ruled in favor of the plaintiff, there is also the possibility of a greater return than if you settled.
4. Settlements are Private
Sensitive matters in a trial can become public record. If you have certain personal or medical information that you’d rather leave private, it may be difficult to do so if they become relevant to your case during trial. When settling outside of court, the only public records are for the terms of the settlement.
5. Less Uncertainty
Trials are not known for their predictability. During a trial, you are counting on the decision of the judge and jury for your financial outcome. When settling outside of court, terms of the agreement are decided upon by both parties, making certain of what you’ll recover.
6. Less Stress
The court process can be stressful and challenging for anyone. While going to court is in your attorney’s everyday routine, it is not in yours. Appearing in court, standing before a jury and being there while the case unfolds can take an emotional toll that may not be worth it to you.
Benefits of Going to Trial
1. Determination of Liability
If you or a loved one are injured as the result of someone else’s wrongdoing, you may be seeking closure and feel the need to hold someone publicly accountable for their actions. When going to trial, you may feel a greater sense that justice was properly served.
2. Chance of Greater Compensation
A jury verdict can produce a higher financial recovery than what you would have agreed to settle on. When going through a settlement, your personal injury attorney will likely be dealing with insurance companies that will try to minimize your case. In a trial, the jury will decide on what you are rightfully being compensated for your damages from the insurance company, which can end up being more than what your attorney can negotiate. This is the primary reason why clients choose to take their cases to court. However, taking your case to trial also comes with the risk of not winning and therefore not being compensated at all.
3. Compensation from a Low Ball Settlement Offer
In the event that you tried to settle outside of court but were met by an unreasonable low ball offer after attempting to negotiate, you may be able to recoup more of a recovery in court. If the jury awards you a higher recovery, the defendant will then be liable to pay the fees and cost associated with the lawsuit.
Understanding the benefits of settling a personal injury case vs. going to trial is important for making the right decision for your case. A reputable personal injury lawyer should provide a free consultation to discuss the details of your specific situation.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident, contact Robert L. Cavanaugh, Connecticut Personal Injury Attorney with more than 25 years of expertise, by clicking below or calling (203) 259-5400.