Settle or Sue: How Do You Decide?
Many people assume that personal injury lawsuits frequently go to trial, but the opposite is actually the case. According to TheLawDictionary.org, 95-96 percent of personal injury cases are settled before trial, and 90 percent of the cases that do to trial don’t end up with a favorable result, although the plaintiff’s odds are a little better in front of a judge than in front of a jury.
So when should you settle, and when should you sue?
Advantages of Settling
There are many advantages to settling a lawsuit rather than going to trial, including:
- The main reason that most cases settle out of court is the desire to avoid the high costs involved with litigation. Trial lawyer fees as well as the expenses associated with expert witnesses, depositions, travel, and extra time spent add up, but most of these expenses can be reduced or even eliminated completely by settling before trial.
- Taking a case to trial is also very stressful for many people, who do not like the idea of having their injury as well as details of their lives played out in open court.
- When a case settles out of court, the details are kept private, but if it goes to trial, the court documents become public record open to anyone’s examination. Many settlements include confidentiality agreements, which prevents the details of the case from being discussed in public.
- Trials must follow specific rules regarding procedure and evidence, which dictate what can be said and presented in court. But when a case is settled out of court, the parties have more flexibility during settlement discussions and the way certain topics will be approached.
- The terms of a settlement are put in writing, agreed to by both parties, and very predictable compared to trying a case in front of a jury, where the results are often extremely uncertain.
- Personal injury cases often go on for years, and a trial alone can last one to three years or longer, particularly if an appeal is filed. Settlement can dramatically shorten this timeframe.
- When a case is settled out of court it is officially over, but the losing party is free to appeal a court decision and further drag out a process that is already far too long.
When Is Going to Trial the Right Move?
Although settling may seem like the less painful option, sometimes settlement offers are so unfair to one side that there is really no choice but to take the case to trial, especially if the plaintiff won’t receive sufficient compensation to cover all their damages.
If certain aspects of your case affect society as a whole, filing a lawsuit can make an important point. If the case challenges Constitutional limitations or concerns a fundamental right, taking it to trial may create precedent and potentially change public policy, things that a settlement agreement won’t do.
When considering whether to settle or sue, attorneys examine what is in the client’s best interest, and the final decision about whether or not to settle always belongs to the client.
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