You may recover on a personal injury claim by settling with the other parties or by going to court:
- Going to Court: You rely on a judge or jury to interpret the law to determine who was at fault in your accident and how much should be paid to compensate for your losses. Bringing your case to court, called litigation, requires a lot of work, takes a long time and often costs lots of money. Also, there is no guarantee that the judge or jury will find in your favor or that the award will be as much as you think you deserved.
- Settling: When a case settles, both sides agree to a resolution. Usually, the plaintiff will pay a money award if the defendant will agree not to pursue the matter any further. Settling offers a quick and easy resolution because it does not require the involvement of the court and it is also less risky because the parties know what the outcome will be before they agree to it. The parties can settle at anytime and for any amount.
Why Should I Settle My Case?
The advantage to settling is that it is predictable and relatively quick, but, depending on the strength of your case, you may have to compromise on the amount of your award. In contrast, going to court may result in a larger award, but the outcome is not guaranteed and it may be years before you actually see the money. Even if you win, the defending party will have the right to appeal the case, making the case even longer.
Keep in mind that everything said in a court goes on the public record. Your experiences and the extent of your injuries must be recalled for the judge and/or jury. The accuracy of your experiences will be called into question by the defense attorney. If you don’t what public scrutiny of your injuries and personal life, it may be better to negotiate a settlement.
Finally, be aware that trials are decided on legal issues. As such, certain factors such as emotional stress will not be factored into the award given at a trial.
Should I Go to Trial Instead?
Insurance companies will often try to settle suits as soon as possible because they recognize that settling for a lump sum at the onset of a claim may cost them significantly less money than defending the suit in court. If you consider settling with an insurance company, be aware that their business demands that they settle for the least amount possible, not necessarily the fairest amount. Also, you may not know the extent of your loss immediately after an accident, so it is never wise to settle right away.
Although there is a risk you might lose at trial, there is also a chance you might win at trial as well. If that happens, the amount awarded at trial may very well be larger than any amount you might receive from a settlement. And even if you lose the trial, there is still a chance for appeal, a chance which does not exist if a settlement is taken instead.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Settle My Case?
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you decide if a settlement is right for your case. In addition, there may be certain factors which can lower or raise the amount of money settled for. If the settlement breaks down, having a lawyer is crucial as the case moves to trial.