While the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits are resolved through a settlement, that doesn’t mean that you should be quick to accept any offer that comes your way. It isn’t unusual for an accident victim to be unhappy with the amount offered by an insurance company, especially initially. As a case winds through the legal system, many clients ask if it is better to settle or go to trial. Each option has advantages and disadvantages and every case is unique. Your personal injury lawyer should advise you on your best options, given your scenario.
Benefits of Going to Trial
There are two main reasons clients choose to take their case to trial.
Higher award amounts. If your case is successful, a trial could produce a higher award amount than a settlement. In cases of severe injuries and blatant negligence, a judge or jury may view the defendant's actions negatively and empathize with your ordeal in the aftermath of the accident.
Preventing harm to others. Testimony and details of a civil lawsuit typically become publicly available during and after a trial. Some injured victims want to ensure that no one else suffers from the same type of accident or want to make an example out of the defendant's negligence. By going to trial, the injured victim may want to set a precedent or want to see the defendant face public scrutiny and publicity.
While higher award amounts may sound appealing, it’s not a certainty that you will be successful in a trial. The judge or jury may not see your point of view and the risk of losing your claim may be too much to bear.
Disadvantages of Going to Trial
In addition to the risk, there are other factors that make going to trial a less than ideal option.
Stress. Going to trial is stressful for anyone. The uncertainty of the outcome, process and formality of the courtroom can be intimidating, overwhelming and stressful.
Costs. The longer your case goes on, the costlier it becomes. In the lead up to a trial, you may need to take time away from work for depositions and other court procedures. There are also court costs and other fees that make going to trial costly.
Time. Taking your personal injury claim to a trial is usually the last resort. Getting to this stage in the negotiation can take months or even years. From there, your case must be scheduled into the very busy court system. Some clients do not want to wait or cannot afford to wait until the claim is resolved through a trial.
Privacy. Once a case is taken to trial, its records are made public unless explicitly ordered sealed by a judge. If you testify at the trial and your character is questioned by the defendant, all of those details would be publicly available.
When a trial isn’t the best option, settling your case may have its advantages.
Reasons to Settle Your Personal Injury Claim
Before you can figure out if a settlement offer is fair, you need to know how much your injuries are worth. An offer may seem like a lot of money until you realize that this amount won’t even begin to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and other potential losses. Make sure you are considering your future medical needs and the lost income from not being able to work or maybe even return to your former job. Once you have a good idea of how much of your losses the settlement will cover, consider these advantages:
Quicker resolution. Naturally, many clients want to be compensated for their losses in the least amount of time possible. A settlement may allow you to move on with your life more quickly and avoid the stress and hassle of a continued legal process.
Guaranteed successful outcome. Unlike a trial, you know how much the settlement offer is before accepting it. There is no risk that you will not win any damages.
It can be challenging to know if you should settle or go to trial without the help of your personal injury attorney. They can advise you of your best options and likelihood of success. If you are partially at-fault for the accident or there is not a lot of compelling evidence, settling may be the best option.
When asking if it is better to settle or go to a trial, the evidence, legal arguments and details of the injury should be carefully weighed against the legal process. If the reasons are strong and your case is complex, a trial may be the better option. However, settling your claim is often the best option and can lead to a faster resolution.
Brandon J. Broderick is Here for You 24/7
At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, we believe in exceptional client care, empathy, and results. That’s what makes us one of the top-rated personal injury law firms in the area. With offices in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Florida, we’ve got you covered. If you need help getting full and fair compensation for your injuries after an accident, contact us today for a free consultation.