How Likely Is It That My Personal Injury Case Will Go to Trial?
If you are considering opening a personal injury lawsuit, you may be preparing yourself for a lengthy battle, featuring stern judges, emotional courtroom testimony, and 12 nervous-looking jurors. In reality, however, 95 percent of cases never even make it to trial (and those that do are typically far less dramatic than you see on TV). Instead, the vast majority of cases are settled through out of court negotiation, in which both attorneys and insurance companies agree upon a certain amount of financial compensation. In exchange, you agree to drop all charges against the defendant.
While most cases are settled in this way, approximately 5 percent of personal injury claims go all the way to trial. Sometimes, settlement is not possible, or it may not be in your best interests. A good attorney, such as the Salt Lake City auto accident attorneys of Younker Hyde Macfarlane, PLLC, will guide you as you decide whether settlement or trial will help you to obtain the greatest amount of damages possible.
When a Trial Is in Your Best Interests
In general, settlement is the best option, since it saves you from high legal fees, the emotional strain of courtroom testimony, embarrassing public attention, and a battle that can last for months, if not years. However, there are several situations in which a trial can be most advantageous.
The first is when your attorney and the defendant’s attorney greatly disagree about the financial value of the case. For example, if your attorney believes you are entitled to one-million dollars, and the defense argues that you should only receive $250,000, the two sides are unlikely to come to an agreement through negotiation. In this case, a trial would most likely be in your best interests.
A trial may also be more advantageous if you actually want to garner public attention. For example, if you are waging a malpractice suit against a major hospital, you may want to raise public awareness of lax health standards in the medical field. Such widespread attention can help bring about sweeping reform and protect others from harm.
Finally, your attorney should never attempt settlement if you are not sure about the full amount of your damages or injuries. Settlements can never be renegotiated, so if you incur later medical bills, you will be forced to cover these out of pocket, rather than with damages from your personal injury case.
Negotiating a Settlement
Of course, before going to trial, your attorney will do everything he or she can to reach an agreeable settlement. After calculating your damages, including an estimate of any future costs you will incur, your attorney will approach both your insurance company and that of the other party involved in the incident. He or she will present the insurance company with a demand letter, outlining the amount of compensation to which you are entitled. Typically, the insurance company will respond with a counter offer. Your attorney may reply with an additional counter offer, and this may happen repeatedly until both parties come to an agreement. While your final settlement offer may be lower than your original estimate of damages, you will also save the significant costs of a trial and, thus, may end up better off in the long run.
Finding an Attorney
While it is possible to negotiate with an insurance company yourself, it is typically best to seek legal help from an experienced personal injury attorney. Insurance companies - even your own - are not looking out for your best interests. They want to save money, and they will typically offer you a much lower settlement than you deserve. A good personal injury attorney knows when to accept an insurance company’s offer and when a courtroom trial is your best option. Contact an attorney to get the full amount of compensation you deserve.