One of the most common questions personal injury attorneys hear from new clients is: “Do I need to show up in court if I file a lawsuit?” In reality, most personal injury cases end up settling out of court. Chances are, the victim will never have to step foot in court from the beginning to the end of their claim. However, there are circumstances in which the victim’s attorney may urge them to take the case to trial. Let’s take a look at why most cases settle, why some may proceed to trial, and which factors can ultimately determine a settlement offer.
Why Do Most Cases Settle Out Of Court?
Going to court can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Just because an attorney files a lawsuit does not mean that the verdict will result in their client’s favor. The reason to pursue a case depends largely on the settlement offer made by the other party’s insurance. In some cases, going to court can mean even less money ends up in the victim’s pocket, after processing attorneys fees, court costs, and other expenses. A victim will likely accept a settlement if it is fair and comparable to what they would win. Some other factors that contribute to the decision to settle include:
- Minimizing risk: There is no guarantee that the plaintiff will win the trial, so accepting a guaranteed settlement can be a safer option.
- Reducing costs: Filing a lawsuit means paying attorney fees and all of the other costs associated with taking the case to trial; a settlement avoids most, if not all of those costs.
- Saving time: Trials can take weeks, months, or even years to reach a conclusion; settlements offer a much quicker payout.
When Should A Case Go To Trial?
In short, if a victim is unhappy with their settlement offer and their attorney is confident in winning a higher amount, a case will likely go to trial. This is after all negotiations between the victim and the plaintiff’s insurance company have been exhausted. However, settlements are sometimes never even offered altogether; if the insurance company ignores the victim’s demand letter and offers no settlement, going to court would be necessary for winning any amount of compensation.
According to California personal injury lawyers DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo, a trial will likely ensue due to the following:
- The plaintiff’s insurance company is confident they can win, so they make an offer to the victim; an insufficient settlement amount or none at all.
- If the amount of the settlement demanded by the victim or their lawyer is too high, the insurance company might feel they have a better chance to pay less in court.
- It may be in the best interest of the victim (or even the public) to hold the responsible party accountable since the damages were caused by their negligence.
What Factors Contribute To A Settlement Offer?
The final negotiated settlement amount made by the defendant’s insurance carrier is calculated through a number of factors. These factors will help determine if a trial is worth taking on. They include:
- The severity of the victim’s injuries
- The medical expenses associated with treatments
- The victim’s income and potential earnings
- How the victim’s appearance may affect the judge or courtroom
- The victim’s age and family situation
Fortunately, deciding to take a case to court does not mean the settlement offer is off the table. Quite a few cases settle during the early stages of a trial before each side is done preparing. Even stalled settlement negotiations can get moving again through mediation with a neutral third party. Whichever decision a victim chooses, it is always best to consult an attorney before accepting a settlement that appears insufficient or disproportionate to the injuries the victim suffers.