That is the question that most clients ask themselves. It arises in any kind of case. It‘s only natural that you want to be sure what you‘re getting yourself involved in before you actually talk to an attorney. However, the overwhelming majority of personal injury cases are settled without going to court.
Settlement or Trial?
After a case involving personal injury has arisen, there are basically two ways you can ask for damages and obtain it from the person who caused the injury. The insurance company or the defendant himself/herself might offer you a settlement and if the plaintiff agrees to it, the case is settled outside of court. Otherwise a lawsuit in civil proceedings must start in order to collect the compensation.
What is a settlement? A settlement means that the plaintiff and the defendant agree that payment will be made to the person who was injured. The payment can be made before the lawsuit has been filed, it can be made when the case is in trial, or even at the moment when the jury is in the process of deliberating. Once the agreement regarding the settlement is reached, then the plaintiff is free to relinquish all of the claims which arose in the particular incident. Then he or she can sign a release.
While it is true that very often a civil lawsuit results in more money being handed to the plaintiff than in the case of a settlement, trials might sometimes be very stressful and risky for the both parties. That is the reason why settlements tend to be preferred.
Why Is It That Most Personal Injury Cases Settle?
When there is an insurance company that is involved in a case, a settlement will very often be reached. This is due to a number of reasons. At the end of the day, insurance companies are businesses. Trials can get very expensive for insurance companies. Usually large legal fees are involved. Also, the insurance companies cannot determine what the outcome of the trial is going to be. A settlement allows the insurance company to have some say, which is preferable.
Settlements can also be beneficial for the defendant, if he/she has a reason he/she would rather not be seen publicly. As an example, if there is a defective product and only a few people are injured, it will likely be in the company‘s interest to have no publicity in this case. When the settlement is being drafted, the company might include confidentiality requirements that the plaintiff would have to sign. In exchange for this concession, a larger settlement amount may be requested which the company would have to pay.
In What Way Can a Settlement Be Beneficial to the Plaintiff?
If an injury lawsuit is settled out of court, it can be beneficial to the plaintiff in several ways. It can even be beneficial to the defendant. First of all, the process usually tends to be lengthy. Normally the case won‘t even go to trial until a year has passed since the time when the initial claim was filed. After that, the trial might take several months or even years in case one of the parties appeals. In case you have been injured, you likely had to pay for some medical expenses and do not want to wait such a long time before you can get financial relief. On top of that, if you had to sustain an injury, it can be very stressful to go through the trial given its length.
In addition, unlike settlements, trials are not private. This might be positive for the plaintiff as well as for the defendant. While the case is in trial, both of the two parties might attempt to make the other party look bad in the eyes of the jury and that information is always made available so that anyone can read it. On the other hand, in settlements, the parties decide what is going to be made publicly visible. This includes the actual settlement amount.
Finally, a settlement always results in a guaranteed victory for the plaintiff. Even though it is true that the plaintiff might not end up being awarded as much as they would be if the case went to a trial, at least they know they will get something. However, when the case is brought before a court, there is always a slight chance that the plaintiff will lose it all and receive nothing at all.
What If a Settlement Is Not Agreed Upon?
Usually, a settlement is something both parties want. When they both agree, they can put the unpleasant incident behind them. However, it is not always easy to agree on a settlement and that is for a number of reasons. In some cases, a settlement is not offered at all. For example, if the defendant thinks he/she is not responsible for the accident, he/she might not offer the settlement in the first place. In that case, the plaintiff would have no other option but to bring the case before court. Sometimes, the two parties have difficulty agreeing upon an exact amount that would benefit both of them.
It might be beneficial to the plaintiff to start court filings simply because he/she wants to grab the attention of an unwavering insurance company. This is a sign for the insurance company that the plaintiff is willing to do more than just threaten the other party and that they could take the case to court.
How Can I Be Sure That My Case Will Go to Court?
As was already mentioned, in the overwhelming majority of cases the case will not even go to court. If you have been injured in Chicago because of someone else‘s negligent actions, it is a good idea to contact a Phoenix personal injury lawyer. A lawyer can assist you in navigating through the process and advising you on whether or not an offer made by the other party is fair.