If you’ve experienced a personal injury, you probably have some questions about the legal process and bringing your case to trial. Most cases are settled before trial. Research suggests that only about five percent of cases are taken to trial.
While this may surprise you, settling a personal injury claim offers many benefits over a jury trial, such as speed of resolution and control over the outcome.
Why do most personal injury cases settle?
Most often, a personal injury case settles because both sides recognize that there is risk in going to trial. Settling a case allows you to have control over the outcome – you control when a case settles and, to some extent, for how much. When a case is taken to trial, both sides place the fate of their case in the hands of 12 jury members. For many people, jury trials are too uncertain. For others, the risk of a jury trial is outweighed by the possibility of a much larger result. Oftentimes, the most important factor in settling or trying a lawsuit is the strength of liability.
Determining liability in personal injury cases can be complicated. There are many factors, which can influence responsibility for an accident.
Having an experienced personal injury attorney representing your interests is crucial to ensure that you get fair compensation for your injury. Whether the case goes to trial or not, you need an experienced lawyer through each step of the process.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the main reasons why these cases go to trial.
1. Defendant’s Attorney Thinks They Can Win: Liability is in Dispute
2. The Settlement Demand is Too High
3. The Settlement Offer is Too Low
4. Defendant’s Insurance Company is Disputing the Injury
5. Insurance Companies Acting in “Bad Faith”
Let’s dive in, shall we?
This is the most common reason why personal injury cases go to trial. If the defendant’s attorney feels that their client is not responsible for the injury, then they will feel justified in taking a personal injury claim to trial.
This scenario may occur when the defendant feels the claim lacks sufficient evidence or that the available evidence points to someone else being responsible for the injury. In these circumstances, the only option to resolve the dispute is a jury trial.
For example, consider the following scenario: A person falls down the stairs in an apartment building. The injured person sues the property owner claiming that there was insufficient lighting in the stairwell causing them to fall. The property owner may argue that there was sufficient lighting. Now consider whether the injured person was intoxicated at the time. Personal injury claims are factually specific and every small detail matters.
If the defendant feels strongly that they are not liable, then they may be justified in refusing to pay a personal injury settlement and, instead, asking a jury to determine the outcome.
In this scenario, both parties would present evidence, witness testimony, expert opinions, and more for the jury to review – then come to a decision.
Personal injury attorneys aim to negotiate the highest possible settlements on behalf of their clients (the injured person). In most scenarios, the initial demand for settlement is higher than what the injured person is willing to accept. An experienced personal injury lawyer will try to maximize the recovery for their client by issuing a settlement demand, which builds in room for negotiation.
For example, in the case of an auto accident, your personal injury attorney may request $1 million to cover your medical expenses as well as damages from pain and suffering. The insurance company, however, may feel that number is way too high given the nature of the accident and extent of your injuries.
If the Plaintiff is unwilling or unable to meaningfully negotiate off of the initial demand, the defendant may choose to take the case to trial in hopes the jury will award a lower amount. Negotiating personal injury cases is about finding a middle ground that’s fair for everyone. If the parties cannot agree on a fair amount for settlement, then the only way to resolve the dispute is through a jury trial.
On the flip side, if the insurance company has valued the case below what is fair and reasonable – and below what the injured person is willing to accept – then the Plaintiff has the right to go to trial and convince a jury to award a higher amount. While the decision whether or not to settle is the client’s, an experienced lawyer will be skilled in valuing injury cases and advising the client on what amount is fair and reasonable.
In the example mentioned above, assume the defendant only agrees to pay $75,000 of the total $1 million demanded. If the personal injury claim lawyer felt strongly that this was inadequate to cover medical bills, future medical treatment, reduced quality of life, etc., they may recommend trial. In certain cases, the only way to get the true value of the case is through a jury.
Based on the facts of your case, your personal injury attorney will help you determine an appropriate value for your case. If the offer from the defendant seems unfair (well below this amount), your lawyer may recommend taking the defendant to trial.
Most personal injury cases boil down to negotiations between attorneys and insurance companies. Keep in mind, insurance companies – even your own – have the primary goal to protect their bottom line. Your well-being and health are not their top concern (despite what they may tell you). Even if your injury and the at-fault party’s liability are crystal-clear, these companies have no intention of providing fair compensation – and they will dispute every last detail.
Insurance company disputes may also cause claims to go to court. The defendant’s legal team may argue that they are not liable for your injuries or that your injuries are not as severe as the you claim.
Take this scenario for example: A person suffered neck pain after an auto accident, where they were rear-ended at 15 mph. Following the accident, the person claims they are suffering from PTSD and struggle to perform daily tasks. As such, they request compensation to cover counseling sessions, anxiety medication, and other therapies to support their emotional health.
The defendant’s insurance company will likely claim that the nature of the accident does not warrant this type of medical treatment. If the defendant refuses to cover these expenses, the injured’s personal injury attorney may request statements and evidence from trusted medical professionals to prove the severity of the injury claim and the treatment that’s needed as a result of it.
If a person cannot provide medical evidence to demonstrate the extent of their injuries, and will not accept the settlement offer, the defendant won’t hesitate to take the case to trial.
As we all know, personal injury cases generally involve negotiations between the injured person’s attorney and the at-fault party’s insurance provider. However, some instances require the injured person to negotiate with their own insurance company for a settlement. Whether its your own insurance company or the at-fault party’s, you may go to trial if the insurance company act in bad faith.
To reiterate, insurance companies have one goal – to resolve your case for the lowest amount of money possible – but they still have a duty to provide coverage and negotiate claims in good faith. When the insurance company places its profit motivation above its duty to the injured person, the insurance company acts in bad faith.
For example, let’s say you get into a car accident and the value of your injuries greatly exceeds the amount of insurance coverage available. Despite your serious and obvious injuries, if the insurance company refuses to offer the full policy limits – attempting to save money on the policy – the insurance company is acting in bad faith. When the insurance company refuses to acknowledge your losses, an experienced personal injury lawyer will take your case to trial and fight to get you a full and fair recovery.
Whether your personal injury case goes to trial or not, a skilled personal injury lawyer is crucial to help you negotiate a fair settlement offer. Many people wrongly assume they can’t afford an attorney to manage their claim. This is a misconception.
Personal injury attorneys, like Mahony Law, work on a contingency fee agreement, which means they are compensated as part of the total settlement. These attorneys only get paid after winning personal injury cases.
In other words, ANYONE can afford to hire an experienced lawyer to help them negotiate their personal injury settlement. At Mahony Law, we are happy to answer your questions and address any concerns about the personal injury claim process. Even if you aren’t sure if you have a case, we’re happy to discuss the facts of your case with you.
Call our office at 262.331.3553, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or schedule a FREE consultation.
Our Wisconsin personal injury law firm has a true passion for helping people. Allow Mahony Law to pursue justice for you and your family after an injury or accident.
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