If you are injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another person, corporation or government agency, you may be entitled to recover compensation in a personal injury claim to cover your medical care expenses, lost wages from being unable to work, and pain and suffering. This money may be offered as part of a settlement, or awarded by a judge or jury in a civil lawsuit. A common question we are often asked in new client consultations is “Will my personal injury case go to trial?”
The answer to that question in most cases is “probably not.” Most, but not all, personal injury cases settle outside of court, avoiding the time and expense associated with at trial. Sometimes cases are settled without filing a lawsuit, sometimes they are settled after a lawsuit is filed, and sometimes they are settled on the eve of trial. Avoiding a trial is ideal for plaintiffs because trials are expensive and there is always a chance that the plaintiff could lose and be awarded nothing. Defendants like to avoid trials to keep their name (and negative publicity) out of the press, and settlements can include a confidentiality clause. Although settlements are generally considered a “win-win” for both the defendant and the plaintiff, sometimes cases don’t settle and a trial is necessary. Some of the common reasons a case won’t settle are:
The defendant refuses to offer a settlement.
The defendant offers an unreasonably low amount.
The plaintiff insists on putting the defendant on trial.
Whether or not to take a case to trial is something a plaintiff should decide with their personal injury lawyer. An attorney with experience handling similar cases and understanding of the unique aspects of the case can advise whether a settlement offer is fair. Sometimes it may make sense to accept a settlement offer that is for insurance policy limits, than to take a case to trial and possibly be awarded more but be unable to collect from the defendant. Insurance companies are only willing to pay what they are obligated to pay per their policy terms.