Should I Take My Personal Injury Case to Trial or Settle?
Once you file a personal injury claim against someone who harmed you, the defendant or their insurance company will look to pay out the lowest amount possible to you. At some point after you file, settlement negotiations are likely. The vast majority of personal injury claims, especially those involving traffic accidents, settle long before going to trial. Yet, some cases end up in court for a wide range of reasons.
Whether you choose to settle or go to trial depends on several factors. Your attorney can review the facts of your case and discuss the best strategy for your situation. Until you can meet with an attorney, we cover the advantages and disadvantages of settling and going to court.
Settling Your Personal Injury Claim Before Trial
Reaching a settlement agreement for your personal injury claim means that you and the other side, typically an insurance company, agree on a number that prevents going to trial and letting a court decide the amount of damages you receive. Settlement negotiations typically begin over the phone or via email. Negotiations typically do not occur in person.
Settling has advantages and disadvantages, so you need to weigh them and decide what’s best for your circumstances.
Advantages of Accepting a Settlement Offer
- Speed. Once settlement negotiations begin, most cases are resolved within six months. This is less than half the time it takes for an average trial. Settlements are often more efficient and cost far less than a court trial.
- Cost. Settling your personal injury claim before going to trial means you do not have to incur expensive court and administrative costs.
- Control. You retain the power to accept or refuse any offer the other side makes you during settlement negotiations. You do not have to accept a low-ball offer. Instead, you can let your attorney negotiate a better outcome. You have no control over the financial outcome of a trial.
Disadvantages of Accepting a Settlement Offer
- Reduced compensation. Settlement agreements come with compromise; you will have to agree on an amount less than the estimated value of your claim. However, it’s highly likely you will receive less money from a settlement than you might receive from court-awarded damages.
- Permanence. Accepting a settlement offer means you must sign a waiver that you will not take further legal action against the other side for the same event/injuries. If your injuries worsen and you accumulate more medical bills, you cannot seek further damages. Your settlement is permanent.
Taking Your Personal Injury Claim to Court
Taking your personal injury claim to trial involves each side presenting their argument and evidence to the court. In personal injury cases and other civil cases, juries deliberate and vote for an outcome based on the preponderance of the evidence. This is a lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt, which is used in criminal trials. A simple majority in the jury must find that your claim is more likely true than not for you to prevail in your claim.
Advantages of Going to Trial
- More Recovered Damages. When your attorney files a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf, he or she asks for the full value of your claim, including economic and non-economic damages you’ve incurred due to your injuries. If a jury rules in your favor, you have the potential to receive greater compensation than you would from a settlement.
- Closure. Some who fall victim to negligence need the experience of facing the party who harmed them at trial. Additionally, seeing parties held accountable for their actions and liable for damages brings a sense of justice that doesn’t typically accompany the settlement process. In fact, some settlement agreements stipulate that the defendant does not have to admit liability for negligence or wrongdoing.
Disadvantages of Going to Trial
- Long timeline. Trials take time and occur after settlement negotiations fail. Lawyers need to prepare for trial, coordinate witness testimony and wait for court dates. This greatly extends the timeline it takes to resolve your claim. Those who feel the economic burden of their injuries sometimes have to wait years before they see a dime.
- Chance of zero recovery. Presenting your case to the court means that you leave the outcome in its hands. You could get more compensation than from a settlement, but you also risk walking away with nothing. Trials are unpredictable and do not guarantee that you will recover damages for your injuries.
- Expense. Going to trial comes with extra expenses such as court costs, witness preparation, and administrative costs.
Reasons for Going to Trial with Your Personal Injury Claim
Both sides in a personal injury claim have an incentive to reach a settlement agreement. Trials are expensive. The defense might have to pay more, and the extra costs related to trials sometimes diminish any additional compensation a plaintiff might receive from a jury verdict. Yet, sometimes settlement is not a viable option. Examples of situations where a plaintiff might choose to go to trial include:
- Questionable insurance company tactics. Insurance companies sometimes play games and push moral, ethical, and legal boundaries when dealing with personal injury claims. If they are close to the line or cross the line and act in bad faith, your attorney might advise you to go to trial. Juries can be extra sympathetic to claimants when insurance companies behave badly.
- High-value claim. If you’ve incurred a massive amount of damages, your lawyer might recommend going to trial, especially if the insurance company refuses to make a reasonable offer. For some plaintiffs, the risk of going to trial is worth the potential outcome of a high-value claim. Also, going to trial may be the only way to recover significant compensation for massive losses related to your injuries.
- Catastrophic injuries. A catastrophic injury refers to an injury that prevents a person from returning to their job or working in any capacity in the future. Insurance companies rarely make settlement offers that properly compensate someone for a permanent disability that prevents working. Plaintiffs typically need to prove their case to the court; they must enlist medical experts to testify that they have no hope for a full recovery from their injuries. They must also prove their lost earning capacity, the estimated amount of future lost wages and benefits.
Let an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Review Your Claim
If you have recently suffered injuries resulting from negligence or intentional harm, Louisiana law permits you to seek compensation for damages related to your injuries and associated losses. It’s never easy to know the right thing to do. However, hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to advocate for you provides the guidance you need.
During a free case evaluation, your lawyer will review the facts of your claim and discuss the challenges and obstacles that might impact whether you accept a settlement offer or go to trial to let a jury decide the outcome of your case. The skilled legal team at Charbonnet Law Firm has extensive experience in the settlement, negotiation, and litigation of personal injury claims. Contact us today online or at (504) 294-3825 to discuss the details of your claim, your injuries, and strategize about the best path forward for your individual circumstances.