Whether or not your case goes to trial or settles before trial begins depends on the facts of your case; the venue of your case (the County it's in); whether or not you have had previous injuries to the body parts you hurt in this accident; your expectations concerning the value of your case and whether or not liability is contested. As a general rule though, only about five (5) percent of cases actually go to trial. Most personal injury cases are settled during pretrial negotiations or at a mediation.
The pros and cons of trial – At a trial, you can testify about how the accident has affected your life and about how the injuries you have sustained have caused you great pain and suffering. You can call witnesses to the accident to explain how it wasn't your fault and you will have to call a doctor to testify about your injuries. Then, a jury makes a decision whether or not you are entitled to compensation, and if so, how much. Before you get all excited about having a trial though, keep in mind, most jurors are not adept at calculating the value of your injuries. And rest assured, the defendant will have skilled trial lawyers defending the case to persuade the jury to award you nothing, or at least much less than what you hope for.
Why Your Case May Settle Before Trial
- If the defendant's insurance company believes that their client caused your injuries and they can value the case, taking into account continued cost of defense and risk of trial, your case will most likely settle. Keep in mind though, by definition, a “settlement” means that both sides are a little unhappy. The defense may think they are paying you a little too much and you may think that you should get a little more. That's why it's called a “settlement.”
- The settlement offered by the defendant's insurance company is fair and comparable to other settlements given your injuries and how you have recovered after the accident.
Reasons Your Case May Go to Trial
- The defendant's insurance company believes they can prevail at trial, and the County where your case is venued is favorable to them, so they offer a low-ball settlement or none at all.
- The insurance company doesn't want to set a precedent for settling your type of case for what they feel is too high a number.
- The amount of money you are demanding is too high for the insurance company to settle when weighed against the risks of trial; and the insurance carrier will also consider whether a jury verdict beyond what they are offering, and you are demanding, will be appealable for them.
Is Your Attorney Willing Ready and Qualified to Try Your Case in Front of a Jury?
Not every attorney is experienced at trying cases and presenting your case to a jury. Some personal injury attorneys run what is sometimes referred to as “mill firms,” where they take every case and settle every case for whatever they can get. Trials are not in their wheelhouse.
This can put you at a disadvantage. The defendant's insurance company could know your attorney's reputation for always settling for whatever is offered and avoiding trials.
Why Is Avoiding a Trial Preferable to Getting a Jury Verdict?
There are several reasons why it may be better for both parties to settle prior to trial.
- Trials are ripe with uncertainty – neither side can be sure what a jury will decide. The insurance company for the defendant may rather offer a guaranteed pre-trial settlement, even if it's more than they feel the personal injury warrants.
If you have suffered a personal injury due to the negligence of another, contact the Law Firm of Michael J. Redenburg, Esq., PC for a free case evaluation at 212-240-9465.