When Faced with Choosing a Settlement vs Litigation – The answer is not always clear.
The fact is that it is well known that most cases settle. In other words, the lawyers agree on a resolution and the case is over. Nationwide, about 96% of all civil cases (not including criminal cases) settle before going to trial according to a study by the American Bar Association.
Of course, that doesn’t mean your case will settle. In some instances, you may have no choice but to take your chances at trial. Other times, you (or more likely your lawyer after an evaluation of the facts and law) may decide that settling makes the most sense.
So, when does it make sense to settle in a personal injury case and when should you go to trial? Here are some factors to consider:
The Severity of Your Injuries
Cases with more severe injuries are less likely to settle because the damages (the amount of money you are seeking in a settlement) tend to be higher. Insurance companies are also usually more unwilling to take cases with serious injuries to trial because the risk of a large verdict is greater.
That being said, even cases with catastrophic injuries settle all the time. It really depends on the facts of the case and how strong liability is against the defendant.
The Cost of Litigation
Litigation can be expensive. If your case is expected to cost a lot to take to trial, that can be a factor in deciding whether to settle or go to trial. That being said, many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t have to pay anything upfront and the lawyer only gets paid if he or she wins your case.
The Probability of Winning at Trial
This is probably the most important factor in deciding whether to settle or go to trial. If you have a strong case and the likelihood of winning at trial is high, you may be able to get a better settlement by taking your case to trial. Insurance companies know that juries tend to award larger verdicts than what would be offered in a settlement, so they are often more willing to settle cases with a high probability of success at trial.
On the other hand, if your case is not strong or the liability against the defendant is weak, you may be better off settling. Going to trial with a weak case is always a risk because you could end up getting nothing if you lose.
If the Case Involves Someone Close to You
If the case involves someone close to you, such as a family member, friend, or coworker, that can be a factor in deciding whether to settle or go to trial. If the person is someone you don’t want to see get hurt financially, you may be more inclined to settle.
On the other hand, if the person is someone you don’t like or who has done something wrong to you in the past, you may be more inclined to take the case to trial.
The Emotional Toll of a Trial
For some people, the idea of going to trial is just too stressful. If the thought of testifying in front of a judge and jury is just too much for you to handle, settling may be the best option.
On the other hand, some people want to have their day in court. If you feel like you need to tell your story to a judge and jury, going to trial may be the best option for you.
The Length of Time Until Trial
If your case is set for trial in a few months, that may be a factor in deciding whether to settle or go to trial. If you want to get the case over with quickly, settling may be the best option.
On the other hand, if you are willing to wait for a trial date, that may not be as big of a factor.
The Health of the Parties
The health of the parties can be a factor in deciding whether to settle or go to trial. If one of the parties is in poor health and the case is set for trial in a few months, that may be a factor in deciding to settle.
On the other hand, if the parties are both in good health and the case is set for trial in a few years, that may not be as big of a factor.
The Ability to Appeal
If the case is set for trial and there is a possibility of appealing the verdict, that may be a factor in deciding whether to settle or go to trial. If you are willing to risk losing at trial but believe there is a good chance of winning on appeal, going to trial may be the best option.
On the other hand, if you are not willing to risk losing at trial and believe there is a good chance of winning on appeal, settling may be the best option.
Settling vs. Going to Trial
There is no one answer to the question of whether you should settle or go to trial in a personal injury case. It depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your case. However, understanding the factors that go into the decision can help you make an informed choice about what is best for you.