When Is It Best to Take a Settlement vs. Going to Trial?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2017.

One of the most common questions clients ask personal injury attorneys is which remedy is best – a pre-trial or trial settlement? While the answer to this question will depend on the details of your particular case, there are a few general pros and cons to each that may help you get an idea of which might work best for your personal settlement goals. Here are some basic facts about each type of settlement and why one might be a better decision than the other in certain circumstances.

Pros and Cons of Accepting a Settlement

The day of or shortly after an accident involving personal injury or extensive property damage, the victim will hear from his or her own insurance company and possibly the insurance company of the other party. The person to whom the victim will speak is the insurance claims adjuster. The role of the adjuster is to protect the best interests of the company he or she works for, not your interests. Adjusters want you to settle as quickly and for the least amount of money possible. Settlement negotiations with an adjuster will rarely give you the compensation you deserve for your injuries and damages. Instead, opt for negotiations using a personal injury lawyer.

Settlements through an attorney can help you avoid a court judgment and all of the associated court fees. It can also mean getting a satisfactory settlement faster. Settlement is a formal resolution of a legal dispute outside of a jury verdict or judge’s ruling. A settlement can occur at any point in a civil lawsuit or even before you file a lawsuit. For a settlement to occur, both parties must work together to reach a fair agreement – typically, a certain sum of money given to the plaintiff by the defendant in exchange for the plaintiff’s signed release of the defendant’s liability.

The pros of settling a case without going to trial include lower expenses, less stress, more privacy, more predictability, and more finality. It would not make sense to settle, however, if one party cannot come up with a realistic or satisfactory offer. If one or both parties aren’t motivated to settle, the case will move to trial. Settling may not be in your best interest if a matter is very personal or makes important points that could impact other parties or change public policy. It wouldn’t make sense to settle such matters, as they would not create a precedent.

When Should You Go to Trial?

When people hear the word “trial,” they often have a misconception of what this entails, based on dramatized court cases on television or famous cases such as The People v. O.J. Simpson. While some cases are complex, long, and drawn out, many personal injury lawsuits take less time and energy. Even if your case does take years to finally settle, the settlement amount at the end may be well worth the time investment. Jury awards can be much larger than the amounts that the defendant offers during settlement negotiations.
Although the privacy of a settlement can be a benefit for personal reasons, the fact that trials are part of public record can hold a defendant accountable if the jury rules in your favor. From then on, the defendant’s negligence or intent to harm will be available to the public. This can help others avoid the same fate as you, especially in trials concerning medical malpractice or defective products. Most importantly, a trial can give you a sense of justice and closure after a devastating personal injury or wrongful death. A trial can give you peace of mind after years of battling against a negligent party. To find out which method of settling is right for your personal injury case, contact an experienced Birmingham lawyer.