Are you in a dilemma, whether to settle your personal injury case or go for a trial at court? I understand how difficult it is to decide when the ball is in your court. If your choice leads to a lesser compensation, it will be disheartening. Before taking a decision, let us learn about the process of a personal injury claim suit and analyze the pros and cons of settlement and trial in court.
If all the disputes go for a trial at court, the courtrooms will be inundated with unresolved cases for a long time. To limit this, courts usually motivate settlement via arbitration or mediation. It is said that around 97 percent of cases settle before reaching the final step in the process of litigations in one way or the other.
Steps in the claim suits:
1. Legal assistance:
Getting the legal assistance of an attorney will ease out the plaintiff from the complex litigation process. After collating the details of the case, he will analyze it and decide what to do next.
2. Demand letter:
Plaintiff should draft and send a well-constructed demand letter informing the defendant and his insurance company that he is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries and other damages. The Plaintiff needs to let them know the estimated amount of settlement and give a deadline for them to reply. A settlement letter is a proof that the plaintiff is ready to settle out of the court.
In most cases, the defendant or the respondent would not be ready to take up the responsibility for the injuries or damages of the plaintiff. They would respond to the demand letter either by accepting to settle or by denying the settlement claim.
Plaintiff should file the complaint with the claims and summon the defendant regarding the expected damages. This becomes an important step in initiating the lawsuit. The defendant would be given time to respond to the summons and to defend his side.
Getting all the possible evidence from the opposing party is the discovery. Both the plaintiff and the defendant can obtain the evidence via interrogatories, requesting to produce documents, depositions of the required people like plaintiff, defendant, witnesses, and experts, etc. from each other. It includes the medical records of the plaintiff, traffic collision report, photographs of the injury, and the causation.
Before the trial at court, either party can forward motions to the court to bring injunctions to rule or act. Sometimes, there are chances for the litigations to be rejected by the court at this stage.
7. Pretrial negotiation:
- Settlement negotiation: Settlement negotiations can occur at any stage before the trial. When both parties come to the settlement agreement proposed by the other, the case will come to an end. Until then the negotiations will go on.
- Mediation: In mediation, a third neutral person will be arranged to listen to the arguments of both parties. He will then discuss with them the strengths and weaknesses of their side privately and propose the offer of one to the other. Until both parties agree to the settlement amount, he will mediate. Once the mediator’s caucusing ends in agreement, the dispute will be settled. If they don’t agree, they can move to the next step.
- Arbitration: When both parties agree to arbitration, either it will be done with the help of a disinterested third person or panel or with the help of the American Arbitration Association (AAA). It is more or less like a trial at court, where the panel or the arbitrator listens to the arguments of both parties. The arbitrator analyzes the evidence and testimonies submitted by them during the hearing. The arbitrator’s decision binds both parties. Once the settlement amount is agreed upon by both, the dispute will come to an end.
The most important part of the litigation is the courtroom trial, which concludes with the jury’s verdict awarding compensation to the plaintiff. To determine the plaintiff’s award, the jury will examine the depositions, cross-examinations, expert opinions, degree of negligence, and other evidence presented by both parties. Finally, the jury will decide on the award and give his final verdict.
Never assume that the trial at court is the end of the case. Any party who disagrees with the trial verdict may file an appeal in the appellate court. The court then analyses the details of the verdict as well as the other proceedings in the case before issuing an opinion. It can either uphold the verdict or order a new trial.
You can get an idea of how long the court procedures go from the above description of the various steps involved in the litigation process. After the trial at court, you must wait for a long time to reach a final verdict or receive the compensation you deserve. If you want to get your restitution as quickly as possible, you should be prepared to settle your dispute at the earliest.
Let’s go over the advantages and disadvantages of settlement and trial at court before deciding whether to settle early or wait until the trial in court.
Pros and Cons of Settlement and Trial at court:
The settlement means resolving the dispute between the claimant and respondent out of the court without the intervention of the judge or jury. Settlement can occur at any time throughout the litigation. When the insurance provider agrees to provide the proposed amount to the claimant, the personal injury claim will be settled. There are pros and cons to settlement. Before deciding to settle your claim understand them.
- Expenses: Settlement cuts the corners of your expense as the litigation is settled earlier than the trial in court, which has prolonged and expensive legal proceedings. If you settle the dispute early, you need not bother about the hefty attorney fees and the other expenses for depositions, expert witnesses, mediation fees, etc.
- Saves time: As you know a trial at court will take ages to come to an end, settlement is a boon to the bereaved plaintiffs. You need not spend your time and energy winning the case and instead, you can concentrate on recuperating from the injuries.
- Privacy: Privacy is protected since the facts of the dispute are not going to be discussed by the public.
- Stress-free: When the dispute is settled early, all the people involved will be relieved from the stress and anxiety.
- Reins in your hand: You have control over the compensation you are going to get. You can decide whether to accept the proposed indemnity or ask for more. The restitution is guaranteed and you can even predict the amount.
- Less compensation: Since the defendants will be eager to settle the case out of the court and try to convince the plaintiff for a lower amount, there are chances to get lesser compensation. As the case settles early, the damages included will also be limited. The future expenses cannot be predicted so early at this stage and be included along with the damages the plaintiff claims.
- No punitive damages: In the settlement, you cannot have any chance to gain punitive damages from the respondent. Punitive damages are usually awarded by the court as a punishment to the defendant for his extreme negligence.
- Can’t sue the same person later: Once the case is settled, you close the door to suing the person for future damages related to the accident. You cannot ask for a revision of compensation saying that the settlement was much lesser than your future medical expenses like surgeries arising at the later stages of the treatment. You cannot sue the same person for the same damages again.
- No psychological satisfaction: When you accept to settle, you deny your chance to bring the guilty in front of the public, as the defendants need not admit liability during settlement. You won’t get satisfaction as you cannot prove the guilt of the defendant and do justice for the injuries he inflicted.
The Trial at court:
The trial in court occurs near the end of the lengthy process when a jury or a judge is appointed to hear both parties’ arguments. It includes the plaintiff’s opening statements outlining the reasons for the defendant’s liability as well as the defendant’s claim of innocence.
To determine the verdict, the jury panel or the judge examines the credibility of both parties’ claims by scrutinizing the evidence, cross-examinations, and so on. The degree of negligence on both of their parts is critical in determining the award. Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of having a trial at court.
- More time to analyze the case: The attorney gets more time to scrutinize the strengths and weaknesses of the case and utilize his expertise. He can present the claim in a well-constructed way and convince the judge with all the possible evidence to get the restitution.
- More compensation: As the case progresses before the trial at court, you have the opportunity to include future medical expenses and other damages incurred as a result of the subject incident. You have the opportunity to include all possible evidence for medical expenses and other damages incurred during the process. This will persuade the jury to award you a sizable sum.
- Bring the offender in front of the public: You will experience psychological satisfaction as the guilty is brought before the public and his guilt is debated. If your case is an example of an injustice that should be publicized, it will be studied and used in future lawsuits. It will become a warning to others who tend to make the same offense.
- Punitive damages: During a trial at court, a veteran jury examines the case. If he believes that the defendant acted recklessly in causing the injuries and damages, he will award the plaintiff punitive damages to punish the defendant for his irresponsible behavior. It’s like an add-on to your compensation.
- Loss of privacy: Every fact pertaining to the case is recorded once the case is presented to the court. Anyone can look over the facts at any time. Along with the defendant’s guilt, the public will hear about the plaintiff’s private or secret information. In the case of a company, its top-secret policies will also be made public. If you want to keep your story hidden from the public, a trial at court is not your cup of coffee.
- More expensive: Because trial at court takes so long, you’ll have to pay a lot of money for lawyers, depositions, and other services. Even if you have a contingency policy, the costs of all the services you receive will eat up the majority of your restitution once you receive it.
- Time-consuming: Trial in court takes ages to get completed. You may feel like waiting for eons to get what you deserve. Along with your financial burden, stress and anxiety about the final verdict of the jury will distress you more.
- Uncertainty: The result of the lawsuit is uncertain as there are chances for the lawsuit to be dismissed due to the flaws in the claim suit. If the defendant presents more evidence against you, the purpose of your long-time agony will go in vain.
Each injury case is unique and cannot be compared to another. The factors favoring your case may not help in other cases. If you are planning to pursue your injury claim, it is advisable to get the succor of an expert personal injury lawyer. Since he has more experience handling similar cases like yours, he can guide you in analyzing the benefits and drawbacks of settlement and trial at court.
If your attorney can get you a lucrative sum by negotiating with the insurance company, it is better to settle out of the court. If your personal injury attorney is confident that you have a strong case and can make it registered in the history of lawsuits, proceed to have a trial at court.
Whatever decision you make makes you. Decide wisely!