One of the most common questions from injury victims is whether they’ll have to go to trial to recover the compensation they need. The good news is that a majority of personal injury cases settle, and they never make it to trial.
Your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company and present the strongest argument possible to reach a fair settlement. The goal is to resolve your case efficiently without compromising on the fair compensation you are entitled to.
However, there is always a possibility that your case will proceed to trial. If a fair settlement can’t be reached, presenting your case before a jury may be the next step to seek the compensation you deserve. Your personal injury lawyer will advocate for you at every stage of your case and discuss important factors that influence whether you should settle or go to trial.
Most Personal Injury Cases Don’t Go to Trial
On average, just 2-4% of personal injury cases actually make it to trial, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice estimates. Many injury claims are, however, filed in court. A settlement can still be reached after a lawsuit is filed.
While going to trial does have advantages, both parties have many reasons to avoid it if possible:
- A trial can be very expensive for both parties
- A trial can delay the payout for months or even years with appeals
- Details of the case become public in a trial
- Plaintiffs risk losing and recovering no compensation
- Defendants risk a jury awarding far more than they refused to pay in a settlement
Most personal injury cases settle before trial due to these risks. The settlement offer may be small compared to the significant cost (and risk) of litigation. The insurance company or at-fault party may fear you will win if the case goes to court, and they will face an even larger payout.
A lengthy and costly trial can eat into the award you eventually receive and delay the compensation you’re counting on. Still, if your case does go to trial, you could potentially be awarded more money than you can recover through a settlement.
Why Your Personal Injury Case May Go to Trial
Sometimes, going to trial is unavoidable and the only way to achieve fair compensation for your injuries. Your lawyer may advise proceeding to court if negotiations break down and a fair settlement can’t be reached.
This may happen when the defendant refuses to make a serious or fair offer. It can also occur because both parties believe they have a good chance of winning at trial. Sometimes, one or both parties insist on going to trial on principle or to make an example.
While any personal injury case can end up in court, it’s more likely if your claim has a high value, involves very serious or permanent injuries, or liability is unclear.
Basic Steps Involved in a Personal Injury Case
The basic timeline of a personal injury case is typically the same regardless of whether you were hurt in a car accident, slip and fall accident, or dog bite incident. Here is a basic overview of the process and what happens at each step.
Initial Case Review
During this first meeting, the personal injury lawyer will listen carefully to your story and what happened. They will review any evidence you have and evaluate your case. Depending on the details, they may want to perform additional research into your case before providing legal advice.
If the lawyer agrees to take the case, the next step is performing an in-depth investigation into your claim. This may involve:
- Obtaining police and accident reports
- Gathering any physical evidence from the scene
- Getting statements from witnesses
- Consulting medical providers about your injuries
- Researching relevant statutes
- Reviewing insurance policies
- Identifying all parties who may be liable for your damages
- Working with medical professionals and other experts
There may be other steps your lawyer takes to gather the evidence needed for the strongest case possible. Gathering evidence can take many months, depending on the complexity. This process will continue while your case proceeds through the next steps.
Communications with the Insurance Company
Early in the process, your attorney will take over communications with the insurance companies. This includes monitoring claims deadlines, filing notices of claims, and responding to any communications from the insurer.
Preparing a Settlement Demand Letter
Once you complete treatment or your doctors believe you have reached maximum medical improvement, your lawyer will prepare a settlement demand package to deliver to the insurance company. It’s important to wait until treatment is complete and you receive a prognosis regarding any future disabilities or impairments to understand the full extent of your damages.
The demand package usually includes a summary of the facts, a legal argument for holding the other party liable, a description of your injuries, a list of your damages, and a settlement demand. This is used to start negotiations.
Negotiating with the Insurer
One of the most critical roles your injury lawyer plays is a negotiator. They will receive a counteroffer and may advise you to accept it if it’s fair. In many cases, back-and-forth negotiation is necessary to reach a settlement agreement. Your lawyer will argue on your behalf and protect your best interests to seek the compensation you deserve.
In some cases, your lawyer may recommend agreeing to mediation to reach a settlement without going to trial.
Once you, your attorney, and the insurance company agree on the settlement amount, a settlement agreement is created. This will release liable parties from any future claims. Once it’s signed, it’s a binding contract that prevents you from filing a lawsuit or seeking additional compensation for your claim.
What Happens if Settlement Negotiations Fail?
If a fair settlement can’t be reached, your case will proceed to a lawsuit and could eventually go to trial.
This process has multiple steps, including:
- Filing a personal injury lawsuit
- Written discovery – or requests for information sent by both parties
- Subpoenas and depositions of witnesses, medical providers, and more
- Medical examinations, which may be required and conducted by a physician the defense has hired
- Mediation and settlement conferences are often used in another attempt to reach a settlement before the trial begins
- The trial, in which both parties present their case and evidence
- The appeal process if either party requests a review of the verdict or decision by a higher court
Even during this process, your case may still be settled. During discovery, mediation, or the trial itself, the defendant may lose confidence in their ability to win or may decide to return to negotiations.
Important Factors That Could Influence a Decision to Go to Trial
Because a trial is costly and time-consuming, not to mention unpredictable, your personal injury attorney will consider many factors before advising you to accept an offer or proceed to a trial.
Some of these factors include:
- The severity of your injuries
- Projected future medical expenses
- Long-term or permanent disability and lost wages
- The extent of your non-economic damages
- Whether the defendant’s conduct was egregious or intentional
- The overall strength of your case
- Whether you share fault for the accident
- The value of your claim compared to the potential cost of a trial
If your lawyer believes the risks outweigh the benefits, there is a good chance your case will not win in court. Or, if you are unlikely to recover more at trial than the settlement offer, they may recommend accepting the settlement.
At Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers, we’re committed to protecting your best interests and pursuing maximum compensation. Call our law office today to schedule a free consultation with a Jacksonville personal injury lawyer to discuss the details of your case.