Are you wondering whether or not to file a lawsuit after you’ve suffered injuries in an accident that wasn’t your fault? You might be surprised to know that the majority of personal injury lawsuits settle outside of a courtroom. There are a number of important advantages to settling as opposed to litigation, and in this article, we’ll discuss why settling your personal injury claim can be so beneficial to you.
Settlements Are Usually Less Expensive
One of the main reasons to avoid a lawsuit altogether is the cost. It is customary for the plaintiff (the injured party) to pay their attorney on a contingency fee basis. This means that the fee to the attorney is paid as a percentage of the compensation the attorney is able to secure for the plaintiff. The percentage is usually around 33%, but there are other costs associated with going to trial as well such as:
- court costs
- filing fees
- travel fees to and from court
- time that must be taken off work to attend the trial
- paying expert witnesses for their opinions
- and more
It is important to note that the sooner a case settles, the less expensive the entire claim process is for both the plaintiff and the defendant (especially the defendant, since they are paying an hourly rate). It makes sense that if the case is relatively cut-and-dried, and the defendant’s liability is obvious, both parties will greatly benefit from settling before the case turns into a lengthy trial.
The defendant (the at-fault party) will typically pay an hourly fee to their chosen attorney. Since trials are notoriously long and drawn out processes, this represents a significant cost for the defendant that must be paid out of their own funds.
In a situation where the attorney for the defendant is being paid by an insurance company, things may change a bit. In theory, the insurance company must never settle a case early just to save litigation costs. They have an obligation to settle cases in “good faith”. If a plaintiff proposes a reasonable settlement offer or accepts a reasonable settlement offer from the insurance company, the defendant can’t reject it simply because they aren’t footing the bill for litigation costs.
Settlements Are Usually Less Stressful
Personal injury trials typically last a few days, but it is generally an astonishingly stressful event for each of the parties involved in the case. You can expect to be subjected to examination and cross-examination while under oath on the witness stand. Your character and past events may be called into question – even things that seemingly have nothing to do with the issues at hand.
Preparing for a trial is also extremely laborious for both the plaintiff and the defendant, as well as their attorneys. There will be attorney meetings to attend, and evidence that you’ll need to help collect. You’ll have to schedule time off work for your trial with your employer, and your stress level will be through the roof.
With a settlement out-of-court, you and your attorney will negotiate an agreement that you and the at-fault party’s insurance company agree upon, the check will be issued, and the matter concluded. Settling outside of a courtroom is much less stressful, and presents much less of a disruption to your day-to-day life than going to trial.
No Guarantee of Liability or Damages at Trial
One of the biggest trade-offs in the trial vs. settlement debate is that a settlement is virtually guaranteed to compensate you fairly for the damages you’ve suffered due to the at-fault party’s negligence. When you file a claim and present strong evidence that shows who was at fault and why, more often than not, the insurance company for the at-fault party will agree to compensate you fairly after some negotiations occur. Your attorney’s fee will be taken out of the funds, as will any medical providers, etc. that are owed money, and you will be left with the balance. At this point, your claim is concluded.
When you go to trial, nothing is guaranteed. It is true that a trial verdict will generally result in a greater amount of compensation than an out-of-court settlement, but it is not written in stone. Jury trials are notoriously unpredictable. Consider what could go wrong:
- Key evidence may be overlooked or excluded by the judge or jury;
- Eyewitnesses may not present well to the judge or jury, and could negatively affect the verdict;
- Inconsistencies in testimony could become apparent;
- Jury members may not view the defendant’s liability as clearly as you do; or
- Jury members may not be entirely impartial and may have their own personal biases.
Any of these things, and many others, could get in the way of you receiving a favorable verdict. You may receive less than you would have if you’d have settled out of court, or in the worst case scenario, you’d receive nothing at all.
Trials Take Time
A courtroom trial often takes more than a year to begin after the filing of the initial claim. The trial itself should only take a few days, but even after the trial has concluded and a verdict has been rendered, either party to the lawsuit may appeal the decision, prolonging both the stress and the process completion. It’s not unheard of for even the simplest of personal injury cases to last three or four years from the time of filing the claim to the time you receive compensation for your damages.
When you settle outside of court, it is possible for resolution to occur after several months, allowing both the plaintiff and the defendant to put the event behind them and get on with their lives. A settlement outside of court is a much more “known quantity” than a lawsuit process.
It is customary that the details of a personal injury case trial are public record, meaning that anyone can read the documentation regarding witness testimonies, applicable evidence presented, and all the skeletons that may have been dragged out of the closet to make the other side look bad to the judge or jury.
When you settle your personal injury claim out-of-court, the only people privy to the information exchanged are the parties involved, their attorneys, and any witnesses or experts needed to give their opinions. You retain much more control of what remains private, and what gets put out publicly. This, of course, includes the amount of the final settlement you receive.
Admission of Liability
A defendant that loses a trial has been proven to be at fault for the accident that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. This fact could sway a defendant to prefer settling outside of the courtroom in order to preserve their public image. In this situation, you’ll receive more compensation by settling because the defendant has more to lose than just money, and they want to avoid a public trial as much as possible.
Contact Us Today
As you can see, there are many advantages to settling out-of-court. The attorneys at The Sevey Law Firm would like to invite you to contact us if you’re unsure whether to settle your personal injury claim or take it to trial. We can answer your questions and give you solid direction based on decades of experience in personal injury law. Contact us today at (916) 788-7100 or online here.