An important question for people who have suffered a personal injury is whether they should settle out of court or risk going to trial. There is no short and dry answer to this question, as each case is highly individualized and many factors go into deciding whether a settlement is fair. The decision whether or not to appear before a judge should be carefully considered, taking into account the associated risks and costs involved in a jury trial. Most personal injury cases in the US are settled out of court, and of the roughly four to five percent that go to trial by jury, nearly 90% don’t end well for the plaintiff.
Jurors are notoriously unpredictable because there is no way to determine in advance who will be on a jury or how each juror will evaluate the evidence. The jury may come up with an amount even less than the original settlement or side with the insurance company on the value of the settlement. Your fate will be in the hands of an arbitrarily selected group of people who are unknown to you and who can see the facts of the case in a completely different light. They can be persuaded by the way the opposing attorney has presented the accident and associated injuries and subsequently rule in favor of the insurance company.
Until the first day of a personal injury trial, even attorneys may not be sure what evidence will be admissible at trial because these decisions are made at the judge’s discretion. Also, if you believe that any part of the accident was due to your own negligence, it may be better to settle out of court rather than have the opposing attorney raise this issue.
There is always the possibility that on any given day, a client or attorney may not perform on par. Clients in particular, with little courtroom experience, can get nervous and make a mistake, which can greatly affect the outcome. Despite all the caveats to making an impartial decision, it is human nature to unconsciously make character judgments based on intangible factors, and juries are no exception.
Costs of going to trial
Litigation and lawsuits are time-consuming and costly endeavors, and a case can take months to resolve. If you and your personal injury attorney feel that you have been offered a fair settlement without going to trial, it is best that you accept this amount and not be responsible for the huge amounts of money that a trial can cost, which will be deducted from the amount of any agreement obtained. By reaching an out-of-court settlement, you are assured that you will get at least part of a settlement. Time is a real consideration for seriously injured plaintiffs, who may find the procedure too risky and exhausting and may prefer to settle out of court.
If you decide to go to trial
If you risk going to trial, you should do so only with a personal injury attorney with real trial experience, who has experience in effectively persuading a jury to side with the victim. The risks and costs of going to trial should be carefully reviewed, always with the help of a qualified attorney with experience in personal injury cases.