Will My Personal Injury Case Go to Trial?

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Will My Personal Injury Case Go to Trial?

personal injury case going to trial

Whether or not your case goes to trial or settles before court proceedings begin is highly dependent on the details of your case. The vast majority of cases – up to 95 percent at some firms – do not go to trial. Most personal injury lawsuits are settled during one of the pre-trial phases.

There are some pros and cons to both – at a trial you may end up winning more damages than the defendant’s insurance company offered as a pre-trial settlement. There’s also a chance you could lose at trial and get nothing or end up receiving a verdict for less than the defendant’s pre-trial settlement offer. Much like gambling, there’s no sure thing when it comes to trials, which is why both parties tend to want to avoid them.

The following are some of the variables that may influence the insurance company’s decision to take the case to trial or your attorney’s decision to reject their pre-trial settlement offers.

Reasons Your Case May Settle Before Trial

  • If the defendant’s insurance company is relatively confident that your personal injury lawsuit will succeed in court, they may choose to settle beforehand and avoid having to pay attorney’s fees and court costs.
  • The settlement your attorney is requesting is insignificant enough that it will be cheaper to simply settle rather than spend the money on attorney’s fees and court costs.
  • The settlement offered by the defendant’s insurance company is fair and comparable to what you’d win with a verdict.

Reasons Your Case May Go to Trial

  • The defendant’s insurance company believes they will win the case, so they offer a very low settlement or none.
  • The insurance company doesn’t want to set a precedence for settling your type of personal injury lawsuit.
  • The monetary amount demanded by your attorney is too high for the insurance company to settle without fighting the claim.
  • As a matter of principal or public good it’s important for a company or person be held accountable for the injuries their negligence caused.

Is Your Attorney Willing to Fight for You?

Not every attorney is an experienced trial lawyer. Some auto accident attorneys or personal injury attorneys will only take cases they are confident they can settle out of court.

This can put their clients at a disadvantage. The defendant’s insurance company could know your attorney’s reputation for avoiding court. If they do, the insurance company may be able to negotiate your attorney down further than they would normally be able to when a jury trial is an option for the plaintiff.

Why Is Avoiding a Trial Preferable to Getting a Judge or Jury Verdict?

There are several reasons it may be better for both parties to settle prior to trial.

  • All parties reduce their legal and court costs and the attorneys involved can close out the case quickly and move on to a new one.
  • Trials are inherently uncertain – neither side can be sure they will win. They may rather accept a guaranteed pre-trial settlement offer, even if it’s less than they feel the personal injury warrants.

Keep in mind that a settlement offer is worth more than a trial verdict due to attorney fees, expenses and court cost deductions. Your case may win a $500,000 verdict at trial, but in order to win, your attorneys may need to spend $100,000 hiring and flying in expert witnesses and accident recreation specialists to testify. Plus, they may need to invest hundreds of hours into your case. In that scenario, if the defendant’s insurance company offered a $400,000 pre-trial settlement during negotiations, it would likely make sense to take it.

What Factors Influence a Settlement Offer or a Decision to Reject a Settlement and Go to Trial?

  • Extent of the injuries suffered
  • The cost of treatment
  • Future medical expenses
  • Client’s income and earning capacity
  • Lost wages, property damage or other damages
  • Client age and family situation
  • How sympathetic the client will be to a judge or jury
  • Jurisdiction, precedence and community norms

Personal injury trial attorneys who have negotiated hundreds of settlements and taken many cases through trial to verdict should be able to size up the total damages and analyze their client and their client’s story to generate a ballpark estimate of what the case should be worth.

If their client has the potential to alienate jurors or the judge, the attorney may settle for less than they normally would to avoid a potential loss in court. If an attorney has a drunk driving injury case in a jurisdiction where drunk driving is a serious issue and there’s a lot of community outcry, they may be able to settle for more than they normally would.

Each case is different. In order for a personal injury attorney to give you a somewhat accurate estimate of what your case is worth, they really need to know the details.