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Taking a case to trial carries substantial risks.

Many people assume that personal injury lawsuits frequently go to trial, but the opposite is actually true. According to, over 95 percent of all personal injury cases are settled before trial, and 90 percent of the cases that do go to trial don’t end up with a favorable result for the plaintiff, although the odds improve slightly when a judge, rather than a jury, decides the case.

So how do you know when to settle and when you should sue?

Why Settle?

The main reason that most cases settle out of court is the desire to avoid the substantial expense involved with litigation. Trial lawyer fees as well as the cost of expert witnesses, depositions, travel, exhibits, and the extra time spent add up, but most of these expenses can be reduced or eliminated entirely by settling the case before trial.

Taking a case to trial is also very stressful for many individuals, since most people 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 part of the public record open to the examination of anyone who is interested, whether or not it is any of their business.

Another reason that settlement might be a wise choice is the unpredictability of juries. Many factors go into their decision, sometimes things that have little or nothing to do with the facts of the case. Leaving the decision up to a jury of peers can be a huge gamble, even if a case seems like a slam-dunk.

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. When a case is settled out of court, it is officially over and done with, but after a trial the losing party is free to appeal a court decision and further drag out an already long process.

When Is Going to Trial a Viable Option?

Although settling may seem like the easy way out, it is often an acceptable way to resolve a dispute. But 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 his damages.

If certain aspects of your case affect society as a whole, filing a lawsuit can help 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 or not to settle, personal injury attorneys examine whether or not settlement is actually in the client’s best interest and advise them accordingly. After all, the final decision about whether or not to settle a lawsuit always belongs exclusively to the client.

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