Personal injury cases are like many other civil cases in that they typically do not go to trial. Instead, the two sides negotiate a settlement before litigation begins, or early in the litigation process. Sometimes compensation is offered before a suit is even filed.
The settlement can be cash paid by the defendant or an insurance company. In some instances, money is not the goal. Instead, it’s the defendant ceasing actions that the plaintiff considers injurious.
Why settle out of court?
The circumstances of each case help dictate the best course of action, but generally speaking, there are certain benefits for the plaintiff to settle outside of court:
- Less time: Court cases can stretch out for months or years, but settling enables the plaintiff to receive money sooner.
- Less stress: Court can be very confrontational, involve testifying and long days of proceedings, perhaps putting a strain on the plaintiff’s recovery.
- Less control over the outcome: Attorneys can provide an educated opinion on how a case will turn out, but there is no telling what a judge and jury will do. Those offered a settlement, may not win the litigation.
- Less cost: The plaintiff’s attorney is only paid if there is a settlement in the plaintiff’s favor. Nonetheless, a trial involves many billable hours, the cost of hiring expert witnesses for their time, and, perhaps, their travel expenses.
- Privacy: Litigation is a matter of public record unless the judge has the records sealed. Some plaintiffs are uncomfortable answering questions about their personal life or reading about it in newspapers or online.
- A verdict often leads to an appeal: If one side does not like the verdict, they may appeal the decision, which means more time in court. It’s only when the case is settled that it’s over.
An attorney’s guidance is invaluable in these cases
The victim needs to discuss the details of their injury with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney before they settle the case, particularly in situations where the other side immediately offers to pay. These legal professionals can provide insight into maximizing the settlement amount or even confirming that the initial offer to settle is a good one.