Generally speaking, the answer to this question is, “Yes.” There are many advantages to settling a personal injury case rather than going to trial. In fact, around 95 percent of all personal injury cases are resolved before going to court. Why do so many cases settle?
Here are just a few of the reasons that most personal injury lawsuits settle before trial:
- Settling is almost always less expensive, especially for defendants who usually pay lawyers by the hour. The longer a case goes on, the more expensive it becomes. Court costs, fees for experts and many other expenses can add up quickly. From the perspective of the injured person (plaintiff), settling can mean that there is more money after attorney’s fees are deducted. Many personal injury attorneys have graduated fees and charge more for a trial portion of a case, again leaving less money on the table for the plaintiff.
- Settling is usually less stressful. Even though trials usually last only a few days, those days can be very intense. Being examined and cross examined by aggressive defense attorneys can be physically and emotionally exhausting. There can also be a lot of work, not just for an attorney, but for the plaintiff, in the days and weeks leading up to the trial.
- Settling is usually more predictable; trials can be risky. Even though a plaintiff might receive less money from a settlement, the chances are relatively good that he or she will obtain some compensation. A trial, in contrast, is much less predictable. A trial forces the plaintiff to surrender control of the outcome and depend on the jury. In negotiations, plaintiffs are part of the process and have some say in the outcome. In a trial, all bets are off and how a jury responds can surprise even the most experienced jury-watcher
- Settlements are almost always faster. Trials can take years, especially if the defendant appeals a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
Settlements are private, trials are not. At trial, everything is public. This includes the amount of the verdict as well as anything that the defense uses to make the plaintiff look bad, in many instances things that have no bearing on the case. In a settlement, both parties decide through negotiations what information will be made public. Maybe you don’t want your neighbors to know how much money you received. Maybe you don’t want your employer to know that you had a drug problem 20 years ago. Settling the case means that you control the information about it.
Settlement agreements can be decided upon at any time during the process, including while the jury is deliberating.
Only five percent of personal injury cases go to trial, even fewer of them start with a trial. In fact, many states require mediation or some other type of alternative dispute resolution that can result in a settlement before allowing the parties to schedule a trial.
If you think that your case might go to trial, it’s important to select an attorney who can handle your case from the beginning, whether it goes to trial or not. It is important to choose an attorney with trial experience – just in case.