Courtroom dramas and unexpected jury verdicts make for exciting television. However, in this case, art does not mirror reality. The vast majority of personal injury cases settle before going to court. In fact, only four or five percent of these cases even reach trial. Ninety-five to ninety-six percent of these cases settle outside of court.
However, despite this statistic, there are both advantages and disadvantages to settling your personal injury case outside of court. Let’s look at some reasons why you might choose one path over the other.
Advantages of settling outside of court
One of the main advantages of settling outside of court is that you get to control the outcome of your personal injury case. Jury trials can be unpredictable – even if your case is extremely strong, you could end up losing, with no hope of recovery. By settling, you can avoid gambling on the outcome, and instead agree to terms that work for you.
Settling can often be cheaper for both plaintiffs and defendants. Trials, in general, can be expensive, especially when it comes to complicated accidents or injuries. Due to the unpredictable nature of a jury, there is no way to tell if your investment in trial preparation will amount to a victory.
Another advantage is that your case can be over more quickly and with less hassle. In California, personal injury lawsuits can take up to a year to resolve and much longer if the other side appeals. Waiting on a final outcome can take away from your peace of mind, whereas settling can help put an end to this stressful chapter in your life, letting you move on with your life.
Moreover, by settling your personal injury case you are truly closing the door. There are no appeals, meaning that you won’t have to worry about appeals coming back to haunt you again in the future.
Additionally, settlements aren’t entirely about the money. Almost all settlement contracts will contain confidentiality language, meaning that neither side can speak about the case. This ensures that the details of this stressful time in your life will be kept out of the public court record, giving you further anonymity.
For the defense side, settling a case means no admission of liability. This can make it more palatable to end the case in this way because you don’t have to admit that you did anything wrong.
Disadvantages of settling outside of court
Despite the advantages to settling your personal injury lawsuit outside of court, settling comes with certain disadvantages.
As the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you do not want to settle before you know the extent of your injury and expenses stemming from it. Insurance companies often try to offer quick, cheap settlements to try to cut their losses. Plaintiffs who accept these settlements may not be able to gain the full recovery they would otherwise be due.
It’s also possible that the insurance company’s settlement limitations are not sufficient to cover the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, or the insurance company refuses to agree to a dollar amount that amounts to appropriate compensation. In these cases, the plaintiff’s only recourse to truly be made whole again is to sue the insurance company and work towards a favorable outcome.
There are also psychological reasons to avoid settling cases outside of court. A defendant in a personal injury case who truly did nothing wrong may not be comfortable settling, even if there is no admission of liability. A plaintiff may decide the gamble of taking their case to trial is worth not wondering “what if?”.
How do I know what’s right for my case?
There are both financial and psychological elements that go into the question of whether or not to settle a case. Timing also plays a major part when it comes to whether a case will settle or not.
One thing to consider is that settlement and litigation are not mutually exclusive. Often, the parties in personal injury cases will work on negotiating a settlement at the same time they are preparing their arguments for trial.
Remember – settlement is always on the table. You may decide to settle the case after a jury is selected, in the middle of witness testimony, or even after closing arguments. Even if you want to spend time litigating at the outset, you can always return to the negotiation table in the future.
At the end of the day, the question of whether or not to settle a case comes down to the individual details of your case. The experienced personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Freeman & Freeman can help you decide whether a settlement or a jury trial is the best route for you. To discuss your case, please contact us by calling (866) 361-7546 today.