A majority of personal injury lawsuits settle before ever going to trial — and this is for good reasons on both sides. There are a number of advantages to settling a personal injury lawsuit outside of court rather than fighting your case to the bitter end. We are going to look at some of these advantages in more detail.
Trials Are Expensive and Settling Can Save You Money
Usually, the injured party — or plaintiff — in a personal injury lawsuit will arrange some sort of contingency fee with his or her attorney. The most common arrangement involves the attorney receiving 33 percent of any pre-trial settlement and 40 percent of any amount received after the start of the trial.
The defendant will likely hire a lawyer and pay them an hourly rate, so the very intensive process of a trial likely result in a notable expense for the defendant in comparison to an outside settlement. However, paying attorneys is not the only expense associated with going to court. There are expert witnesses, court fees, travel and time off work that can also add up to be quite significant.
It is important to remember that the earlier a lawsuit is settled, the less expensive the process will be overall for everyone involved. This is especially true for the defendant paying an hourly rate. The pre-trial process can contain long depositions, including expert testimony. Some attorneys will cover the cost of pre-litigation expenses such as expert witness fees, but some do not. If they are paid up front, they will likely come out of the final settlement amount. If the liability of the defendant and the extent of damages sustained are fairly evident, it is best for everyone to settle early.
If the defense attorney is paid through an insurance company, considerations may change. An insurance provider has an obligation to settle cases in “good faith” and not really allowed to settle a case early just to save on litigation expenses. However, if the plaintiff accepts or offers a reasonable settlement amount, the defendant is not allowed to turn it down just because he or she isn’t covering the costs.
Trials Are Stressful
It may be true that a normal personal injury case will not be more than a few days, but the process can be very stressful for those involved. Both sides may have to closely examined and then again on the stand, with their character called into question publicly. Furthermore, the days and weeks leading up to the court date can be very work-intensive for everyone, not just the lawyers involved. When you settle, both sides negotiate an agreement and the defendant usually covers some of the damages of the injured party. Just like that, the matter is done.
Liability and Damages Are Not a Give
It is true that a jury could perhaps award the plaintiff more compensation for damages than in a settlement offer, this is not exactly guaranteed. Trials can be very hard to predict. Some important evidence might be excluded during the trial, eyewitnesses may not seem credible, inconsistencies in the testimony may appear, and other issues may occur as well. The modern legal system is designed to be straight forward, but nothing is ever certain.
However, what is even more uncertain than proving liability is what the jury will award the injured party in the event he or she wins the trial. This amount is totally up to the discretion of the jury, and they are never completely accurate predictions — they are always just an educated guess. When you settle out of court, both sides have the ability to negotiate how much will be paid out in the end.
The Trial and Appeals Process Can Take Years
In many cases, the trial will not even begin until a year or more after the initial claim has been filed. Even after one side wins the case, the other side can prolong the process by filing an appeal. Even in fairly simple personal injury lawsuits, it is common for the whole process, starting from the filing of the claim to receiving compensation awarded at the end of the trial after many appeals, to take three to four years in total — and sometimes even longer. On the other hand, when you settle out of court, both parties know when and how much will be awarded. Then, both parties can put the whole thing behind them.
Settlements are Private, Unlike a Trial
Unless the records are ordered to be sealed by the judge, which is rarely the case with a personal injury lawsuit, the complete details of the case will be on the public record. This includes all the witness testimony, every piece of evidence, all the evidence used on either side to discredit each other. All of this will be open to everyone. When you settle personal injury claims out of court, both parties are in control of what stays private and what stays public, including the final settlement.
A Settling Defendant Does Not Have to Admit Responsibility
If a defendant is unsuccessful at trial — or loses their appeal — he or she has been shown legally liable for the injuries of the plaintiff. However, if both sides settle, the defendant does not have to admit any liability. This may not be ideal for a victim who is morally invested in the guilt of the defendant, but it is a considerable benefit to the defendant who may be concerned with a public record of negligence or wrongdoing.
Salt Lake City Car Crashes
A majority of car crashes end in death. No matter the reason for the crash, losing a loved one is never easy. Even worse, these crashes are due to preventable accidents, allowing you to partner with a wrongful death lawyer in Utah to regain lost damages.
At Siegfried & Jensen, our team of Salt Lake City personal injury attorneys believe in helping families recover after a tragic accident and the loss of a loved one. No one should have to take on the financial burden of a crash caused by a negligent driver. Call our offices today at (801) 845-9000 to discuss your claim today.