When most people think of personal injury lawsuits, images of courtrooms, juries, and judges might be the first thing that comes to mind. But the reality is the vast majority of personal injury cases – especially car accident cases – are settled before going to court.
In fact, only around 4 percent of car accident cases see a courtroom.
This is because going to court is a long, expensive process for everyone – and the results can vary based on numerous factors. Generally speaking, taking an injury claim to court is a last resort. But sometimes it is necessary.
The decision to take an injury case to court after a car crash is a big one. Your personal injury attorney will manage this process, but it’s important that victims of accidents understand what the prospect looks like.
In this article, we’re going to explain settling vs a personal injury trial – and everything you need to know about it. Let’s get moving.
“Settling” in a car accident injury case refers to the process in which the injured party (plaintiff) agrees to resolve their issue outside of court. When a settlement is reached, it means the plaintiff and the at-fault party (defendant) have agreed to a compensation package to cover the damages incurred.
Compensation for the damages typically covers the plaintiff’s medical bills, ongoing treatment, lost wages, compromised earning capacity, property damage, pain and suffering, and any other costs incurred. If the plaintiff agrees the defendant’s offer is sufficient to cover these expenses, a car accident settlement is reached and the plaintiff gets immediate compensation.
The agreement is formalized in a settlement document where both parties forgo their rights to pursue any more legal action related to the car accident – and the plaintiff’s injuries.
The decision to settle a car accident injury case is significant – and there are many advantages (and disadvantages) to doing so. The major benefits of settling include:
Settlements generally happen a lot faster than taking a car accident injury case to court – a process that can drag on for months or years.
When you agree to a settlement, you know exactly how much compensation you will receive from the other driver. Court judgments tend to be unpredictable – and you may end up with a lower amount than expected.
Most car accident injury settlements are confidential – whereas court trials are accessible via public record.
There is a lot of time commitment and emotional stress associated with taking a case to court. Settling an injury case avoids this.
The major disadvantages of settling a car accident case out of court include:
Settling is the easier option compared to trial, which means you might end up with less money than you could potentially win if you take the car accident injury case to court.
If you want your story to be heard publically, a settlement will not provide any publicity.
Once a car accident injury case is settled, it will be difficult to reopen it if your injuries require more treatment than anticipated.
Depending on the circumstances of your car accident injury, a settlement could mean you end up with less than what you believe your claim is worth.
A personal injury trial for a car accident is a structured process that runs through the United States Court system. The goal is to hold the at-fault party legally responsible for damages.
For starters – assuming a settlement cannot be reached – the injured person (plaintiff) will file a lawsuit against the at-fault party (defendant). This suit will specify the negligence that caused the accident – and subsequent damages suffered.
Next, both sides then engage in a “discovery” process. This involves:
– Gathering evidence
– Analyzing the evidence
– Interviewing witnesses
– Preparing for trial
Once the personal injury trial begins, both parties will present their cases to a judge or a jury.
The plaintiff’s goal is to show that the defendant’s negligence caused the accident and their injuries. The plaintiff’s attorney will present evidence, provide expert testimonies, and in some cases, add a personal testimony.
Once both sides present their case, the judge/jury will decide whether the defendant is truly liable for the damages suffered by the plaintiff. Moreover, they will decide the compensation amount.
The personal injury trial process can be extremely lengthy (and uncertain). When you hire a car accident attorney, they will manage all intricacies of the trial. Most importantly, they will help you decide if a personal injury trial or settling is the right decision.
Taking a car accident injury case to court to prove the defendant’s liability has several key advantages, including (but not limited to):
If you believe the at-fault party isn’t offering a sufficient settlement, taking the case to a personal injury trial can potentially mean a higher reward.
Trials are public record, meaning you can expose the negligence/recklessness of the at-fault party (or other drivers involved) – which can potentially reduce similar behavior in the future.
Trials with higher levels of publicity can influence the law. If your car accident case warrants this, it may play a role in protecting people moving forward.
When you opt for a personal injury trial, your entire case gets explored through the court system until a resolution is reached by the judge or jury.
A personal injury trial can take months – or years – to complete, meaning you may have to wait a while to receive compensation.
Court costs and legal fees add up very quickly. This is why a trial is typically the last resort.
Judges and juries can be unpredictable, and there is no promise that you’ll receive fair compensation.
Due to the public nature of personal injury trials – and reliving the accident – the cross-examination process can be extremely stressful.
The decision for victims to settle a car accident case or pursue a personal injury trial involves many factors, including (but not limited to):
– The strength of the case
– The evidence collected
– Compensation potential
– The other party’s liability
Most importantly, this decision comes down to the negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance company. If the insurance company is refusing to accept liability and adequately compensate the victim for their damages – and the victim can manage the time, costs, and stress of a personal injury trial – taking the case to court may be the best option.
On the other hand, if the victim wants to avoid all the added stress of the court system, they may opt for a lower settlement to move past the entire ordeal.
When you hire a personal injury attorney, they will guide you in making the best decision. Be open in your discussion with them about these considerations. They will provide professional guidance based on the details of your case.
Whether you choose to pursue a settlement or a personal injury trial, working with an experienced car accident attorney is the most important piece of the puzzle.
A knowledgeable car accident lawyer knows all the legal nuances of personal injury law. This allows them to critically evaluate the strength of your case, provide a projected value, and advise on the best way to achieve the goal of earning fair compensation.
More importantly, they will negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company to fight for fair compensation. Trying to negotiate without a skilled attorney will almost certainly end in a lowball settlement (if anything at all). If the case warrants a personal injury trial, they will manage every step of the legal process – so you can focus your energy on recovering.
Legal counsel is essential to the outcome of your case – and will be the difference between receiving adequate compensation for your injuries or facing financial hardship.
The most important thing to remember in a personal injury case is you are not alone.
When you hire a trustworthy personal injury attorney, they will guide you through every step of the process. Most notably, this involves helping you decide whether to settle the case or take it to court.
At Mahony Law, we are a personal injury law firm that aggressively represents victims of car accidents in Wisconsin to earn fair compensation. If the at-fault party is unwilling to offer a reasonable settlement, we are well-equipped to fight for you in court.
Start the conversation today in a FREE consultation. Call us at 262-331-3553, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out an online form to start the process.
Abby is the founder of Mahony Law and devotes her time to representing people who have been seriously hurt due to the negligence of others. Abby has handled injury cases of all types, including birth injury, wrongful death, automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and truck accidents.
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