If you’ve recently found yourself the victim of medical malpractice, an auto accident or another personal injury claims, you may have already filed a lawsuit against the person (or company) whose negligence caused your injuries. You may be eager to proceed to trial so that you can have your day in court — however, in many cases, settling before trial may be the wiser decision. In fact, around 61 percent of personal injury plaintiffs who proceeded to trial actually wound up receiving a worse deal than they’d have obtained by settling.
Read on to learn more about some of the factors that may drive the strategic decision to settle a case before trial.
When can it make sense to settle a personal injury case before trial?
Around 95 percent of personal injury cases settle out of court, and the cases that do go to trial tend to have at least one of two common threads.
The first type of case that frequently goes to trial occurs when the defendant disclaims all responsibility for the accident. In this situation, settlement negotiations are unlikely to be successful because the defendant does not believe he or she is responsible for a single dime of your costs and will refuse to admit fault.
Another situation in which settlement is rare is when the amount being sought exceeds six (or seven) figures. The larger the potential claim, the more likely the defendant is to take his or her chances before a jury (and then use the appeal process if this decision doesn’t pay off) than to agree to pay the injured party a certain amount that isn’t subject to appeal.
However, in cases where the defendant admits fault and you’re seeking only enough to cover minor to moderate medical expenses or property damage, it’s likely the defendant will eventually offer a reasonable settlement. It’s also important to be realistic about the strength of your claim, and your attorney should be able to advise you on your odds of success at trial.
What will the settlement process be like?
Settlement can be achieved through a formal process like mediation or through more informal back-and-forth negotiations between your attorney and the opposing attorney (or insurance company). Mediation is often a better option in cases where the defendant is being particularly difficult and the oversight of a neutral third party can be helpful (or in high-dollar cases in which the mediator can give both parties a more accurate idea of the value (or cost) of the claim), while informal negotiation can do the trick in smaller or less complex cases.
If your settlement talks are ultimately unsuccessful, you’ll still be able to proceed to trial with the same attorney — after all, the same factors used to coax a higher settlement offer will be the ones to help you prevail at trial, and there’s no one in a better position to make these legal arguments than the attorney who has handled the case from its earliest stages.
Take a look at the video we made on this topic.