Personal injury cases often lead victims and their representatives to weigh out-of-court settlements versus court awards. Of course, every case is unique and calls for a tailored legal strategy after a close review of the facts, evidence, and documentation. Whether you settle or go to trial can mean the difference between obtaining fair compensation and having to foot the bill for your accident-related losses.
In general, many personal injury claims settle out of court. Trials come with various court fees and generally take longer than settlements. That said, trials happen for a reason, and your personal injury lawyer may file a lawsuit if that means recovering fair compensation.
The Benefits of Settling a Personal Injury Claim
The main benefits of settling a claim out of court boil down to time and money. A personal injury attorney may avoid costly court fees by settling, but this is just a secondary benefit of settlements.
The primary benefit of settling personal injury claims is that clients may receive the compensation they deserve as quickly as possible. Settlements may also be preferable to trials because:
You Can Access Treatment Sooner
Right now, you’re facing mounting medical bills for your accident-related injuries. A settlement can help you access the treatment you need as soon as possible. Once you get compensated, you can get the care you need to reach maximum medical improvement.
You Can Move Forward With Your Life as Soon as Possible
After suffering serious physical injuries, you want to resolve your case immediately. In addition to paying for medical costs, you may need financial compensation to:
- Replace the income you lost while not working
- Pay for any modifications to your family home or vehicle
- Pay for mental health treatment
- Replace damaged property, such as your car
Financial uncertainty is always stressful. Until an attorney recovers the compensation you deserve, this is what you may face. The sooner your lawyer can deliver the compensation you need, the sooner you can have certainty and move on with your life.
You Avoid Paying Court Fees
Going to court isn’t free. If you file a lawsuit, you’ll have to pay filing fees and other administrative costs, some of which can get expensive. Still, if filing a lawsuit is the only way to recover damages, you shouldn’t let these costs be a dealbreaker. A capable law firm will take your case to trial if it is in your best interest.
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The Drawbacks of Settling a Personal Injury Claim
As with anything, settling a claim instead of going to trial could have drawbacks. An attorney may take your case to trial because, in the cases of some settlements:
You May Not Receive as Much Compensation as If You Went to Trial
Insurers usually try to settle before going to trial because they know a judge or jury may award a plaintiff a large sum. If an insurer can avoid a high jury verdict in your favor, it may gladly agree to pay a settlement.
As you go back and forth with an insurer during negotiations, it may offer more and more compensation, but the last offer may still not match what you could get from a trial verdict. Of course, there is a risk of going to trial—it’s ultimately a jury’s decision how much compensation you will receive.
Your lawyer will exercise their best judgment to decide whether the risks of trial outweigh the benefits of settling a claim.
You Cannot Reopen Negotiations Once You Settle
One of the most important things to consider is that once you accept a settlement offer, you generally cannot change your mind later and renegotiate. As a condition of settling, an insurer will have you sign documents waiving your right to take legal action.
The inability to reopen a claim or lawsuit makes it critical that you are sure a settlement is fair. The last thing you want is to foot the bill for accident-related losses down the road.
The Benefits of Going to Trial
There are a few potential benefits of going to court instead of settling a claim. As long and costly as trials can be, a trial may offer some advantages over settling, including:
You May Receive More Compensation in the Form of a Verdict
When cases go to trial, a judge or jury decides on a verdict. Depending on the nature of the case and the extent of your injuries and losses, you may stand to win more compensation by going to trial. However, nothing is guaranteed.
The outcome depends on the particular details of each case. Your lawyer will assess your total losses, strength of evidence, and other case-specific factors before deciding whether to file a personal injury lawsuit.
You May Feel a Greater Sense of Justice When You Win at Trial
Settling can absolutely provide closure for an injured party. However, each client is different, and some may value the process of taking a claim to trial and having a jury confirm the defendant’s liability for damages.
When a lawyer wins compensation at trial, the client will know that their attorney exhausted nearly every legal option available.
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The Drawbacks of Going to Trial
As stated before, the main drawbacks of going to trial include court fees, other expenses, and a long legal process. It could be months or even years before a trial concludes and the court reaches a verdict. This generally means that a client will have to wait longer for financial recovery than if their lawyer settled.
In summary, possible downsides of civil trials include:
Court Fees and Other Trial Expenses
A compelling reason to settle instead of going to trial is court fees. Each county court system has a fee structure. To give you an example of court fees, consider that the Northern District Court of Georgia requires:
- A civil filing fee
- A writ of Mandamus fee
- An appeal fee
- A writ of habeas corpus fee
- A fee for registering a judgment from another district
Other miscellaneous fees can include filing and indexing papers, retrieving records from the Federal Records Center, clearance letters, record searches, document certification, reproducing audio recordings of court proceedings, and more. In short, almost anything you ask the court to do will cost money. While each individual fee may not sound like very much, they can add up very quickly.
Along with court fees, there are other court-related expenses. For example, an attorney may have to pay expert witnesses to perform research and testify on their client’s behalf.
When a case goes to trial, a lawyer will want to have as much evidence to present as possible. For example, they may want to go the extra mile during the investigation by hiring an accident reconstructionist. Such decisions can mean greater attorney fees, leading the law firm to require a larger percentage of the client’s financial recovery.
The Risk of Losing a Trial
Finally, the greatest drawback of going to trial instead of settling a claim is that you may lose. Even in cases that seem straightforward, this is always a risk. For instance, a lawyer may have limited control over who serves as jury members or the judge in your case.
A lawyer and their client are always gambling when going to trial since what happens in the courtroom can be unpredictable. Even one seemingly small piece of evidence may derail an entire case.
You and your lawyer must assess the risk of going to court and weigh it against the insurer’s best settlement offer. Additionally, for a personal injury law firm, losing a trial generally means it will assume all court costs and other expenses related to the case.
Other Points to Consider When Choosing to Settle or Go to Trial
Aside from the general pros and cons of settling and going to trial, you and your legal team should consider a few other factors. You may partially base your decision off:
Whether the Firm Uses Contingency Fees or an Hourly Rate
Another factor that may influence whether to settle or go to trial involves a law firm’s fee arrangement. Many personal injury firms work on a contingency-fee basis, so their payment depends on winning compensation for the client.
If a firm operates on a retainer or hourly rate (which is uncommon for personal injury lawyers), your attorney’s fees may be higher the longer the legal process lasts. Going to trial only extends the time a case lasts, and sometimes, trials can last for a year or longer.
While an attorney’s fee structure should not solely determine whether a case goes to trial, it is one of many factors that warrant consideration.
The Client’s Preference
You want to get fair compensation quickly. As your injury lawyer explains whether it is better to settle or go to trial, your opinion matters. Your lawyer should take your opinions into account if you’d rather take a settlement offer than file a lawsuit.
Regardless of which path is right for a particular client, a lawyer should help them understand the benefits of every potential legal strategy.
The Statute of Limitations
Another thing to consider when debating whether to settle or go to trial is the statute of limitations. This deadline for taking legal action may influence how a lawyer handles your case. For example, Georgia’s statute of limitations generally allows victims up to two years to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
As a lawyer begins conducting investigations and negotiating with an insurer, they will keep an eye on the statute of limitations. A lawyer will not let this deadline expire, as this may cost a client their chance to obtain fair compensation.
Also, remember that filing a lawsuit does not always mean going to trial—in fact, most civil cases settle before actually going to court. Many times, the threat of going to trial alone is enough to prompt a fair settlement offer from the insurance company.
Will Hiring a Lawyer Help Me Recover Compensation Faster?
There’s no telling whether hiring a personal injury attorney will help you recover compensation faster than if you represented yourself. However, with a lawyer on your side, they can:
- Prevent the insurance company from unjustly dragging out your case
- Streamline the claims process
- Ensure all paperwork is filled out completely and accurately
- Field phone calls and emails from the involved parties
- Recognize and address bad faith insurance practices
Many law firms offer free consultations where, with no obligation, you can explore your legal options. Whether you were hurt in a car accident, slip and fall, or another incident, you could benefit from securing legal representation.
Call Bader Scott Injury Lawyers Today to Discuss Your Options
At the end of the day, you and your lawyer will have to determine whether it is better to settle or go to trial. When you entrust us with your claim or lawsuit, our attorneys will review all relevant information and help you make informed decisions about your case.
A personal injury attorney from Bader Scott Injury Lawyers will be your honest, unbiased, and tenacious legal advocate. Call us today for a free consultation.