The Pros and Cons of Staying Out of Court
Many people think that when you file a personal injury lawsuit in Colorado you will likely end up in court, but this is far from true. About 96 percent of the personal injury cases filed in the U.S. settle out of court. Of the cases that go to court, 90 percent of them end up losing.
There are several reasons why settling a personal injury case out of court can be a good idea, such as:
The accident, parties, injuries, witnesses — all these aspects of the case need to be thoroughly investigated, which can take an extended period of time, ranging from months to years. Before a value can be put on a case, all the damages must be considered, including medical expenses, which cannot be calculated until treatment of accident-related injuries is complete and the injured person has reached what is known as maximum medical improvement.
The high expenses associated with a trial are the main reason why most personal injury claims settle out of court. Going to trial typically costs a lot of money, in the form of fees for:
- Trial lawyers
- Administrative costs
- Court filings
- Trial exhibits
Most personal injury lawyers will require a higher contingency fee if the case goes to trial. According to data compiled by the Court Statistics Project, cases that resolve before trial cost approximately $1,000 to $7,350 per side; those that resolve after completion of the discovery process range from $5,000 to $36,000; and the total costs for cases that end up in trial range from $18,000 to $109,000 per side.
The high costs associated with litigation will come out of your award before you see any of the proceeds, which can make settling out of court — before any of those expenses are incurred — very attractive to clients who are unwilling to take the chance.
Juries can be unpredictable, and litigating a personal injury case is a gamble for a plaintiff, much like flipping a coin: Heads they get a favorable outcome at trial, tails they should have settled out of court. Those who are potentially writing the check (typically the defendant’s insurance company) are more willing to take the risk since they have deeper pockets to shoulder the expenses and could actually end up paying nothing at all if the verdict goes in their favor.
So When Is Going to Trial a Good Idea?
Sometimes negotiations are not fruitful, no matter how skilled the negotiators may be. Settlement offers aren’t always fair to one side or the other, particularly if the dollar amount doesn’t even cover all the plaintiff’s current damages, much less the medical care and loss of earning capacity he or she might face in the future.
Another reason to allow your case to play out in court is if you want to make a point, such as to expose an insurance company with a policy of refusing to pay legitimate claims. Taking such a case to trial could not only teach the company a lesson but also actually change public policy. Settling a case before trial won’t usually accomplish either of those missions.