While most people get the impression that cases always end up in court, the reality is that most personal injury (or tort) cases are resolved through some form of settlement. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice, only about 5% of all cases and 4% of personal injury cases in the United States go to trial.
A majority of tort disputes never reach a trial verdict. Here are some reasons why:
Settlements Cost Less than Trials
The amount of money that’s spent to take a personal injury case to trial is significantly higher than the costs associated with settlement. The majority of these costs are due to attorney fees. In many cases, the plaintiff (accident victim) will have a contingency fee agreement with their West Virginia personal injury lawyer. This means the lawyer gets about 33% of the eventual settlement as their fee or 40% of the eventual verdict if the case goes to trial.
On the other hand, the defendant (at-fault party) may also need a lawyer, who they’ll pay an hourly rate. This means they’ll pay more attorney’s fees if the case goes to trial. Additionally, court costs, depositions, travel, lost time from work, and getting expert witnesses can add up quickly. The total costs could be tens of thousands of dollars for each side by the time the trial comes around.
Trials are Stressful For Everyone Involved
While a typical personal injury case won’t last more than a few days, getting to that trial date can be very long, stressful, and emotionally draining. This is especially true if the plaintiff is dealing with a serious injury that has caused long-term damage. Again, going to trial means everything becomes public record. Both parties will be subject to character scrutiny, which can be uncomfortable for some people.
Taking A Case To Trial Is Risky
Car accident trials are unpredictable, and so are judges and juries. While the court might award the victim higher damages, they could also come back with a verdict for the defendant or a much lower amount than originally sought. Even in cases where plaintiffs believe they have a strong case, there’s no guarantee they will win. The judge might exclude the key evidence, the eyewitnesses might not seem as credible on the stand as they did at the accident scene, or there could be inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s testimony, etc. Suffice it to say, the insurance company and plaintiff are at the court’s mercy, which is not a good position to be in. The ruling could favor any party more than the other. Settling helps avoid unexpected results and control the risk.
The Trial and Appeals Process Can Take Years
The entire process, from filing a lawsuit to the verdict, can take years. Trials don’t always start until over a year (often more) from when the defendant files an answer to the complaint. And still, even when one party wins, the other can choose to appeal, which could further prolong the process by another year or more. This is a big reason people settle personal injury cases outside of court. With a settlement, a plaintiff won’t have to wait years to get the money they need to cover their damages. The defendants can also get on with their lives.
Factors that Influence Whether A Personal Injury Case Will Settle or Go to Trial
While most cases settle, some will go to trial. Here are some of the key factors that will affect whether a case settles or goes to trial:
The Severity of the Injuries
One of the most important factors affecting whether a personal injury case will settle or go to trial is the severity of the injuries. The more severe the injuries, the more likely it is that the case will go to trial. This is because such injuries require more details, and even lawyers may disagree on how much the damages cost.
The Amount of Money at Stake
Another key factor affecting whether a personal injury case will settle or go to trial is the amount of money at stake. If the amount of money is large, the case will likely go to trial. This is because both sides want to ensure that they get the best possible outcome, so they will be more likely to take the case to trial.
How Defendant’s Willingness to Settle
Last but not least is the defendant’s willingness to settle. If the defendant is unwilling to settle, the case will likely go to trial. This is because the plaintiff will want the best possible outcome, so they will be more likely to take the case to trial. A defendant may choose to move to court for various reasons. It could be for public relations, so they don’t seem like they’re admitting fault, or they can do so to discourage future plaintiffs from bringing similar cases.
Let a Lawyer Help you Make the Right Decision
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not to settle your personal injury case out of court. Cost, time, risk, and privacy are all important things to consider before deciding. In most cases, it makes more sense to settle out of court rather than go to trial. However, every situation is different, so it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney from The Miley Legal Group who can help you decide what is best for you.