Around 95% of personal injury claims are settled before a court hearing, which shows that it is indeed the preferred option. The truth is that out of court settlements are quicker and simpler to navigate. Trials on the other hand are time consuming, tiring, costly, and unpredictable. Both the plaintiff and defendant save time and money by settling the matter without the court’s interference. However, some convoluted cases are destined to be prosecuted in court, and the plaintiff is able to reap greater benefits. Whether you should settle your case out of court or go to trial, depends on your unique circumstances.
It is necessary to discuss your case with a professional personal injury attorney before you accept a settlement or opt for litigation. You can start by acknowledging the basic pros and cons of reaching a settlement out of court:
Pro: You know exactly what you are getting
When you sign an agreement with the defendant, compensation is guaranteed, regardless of the settled amount. The defendant cannot refuse to pay the agreed sum in the aftermath. When a personal injury case goes to trial, there is no surety of winning for both sides. The jury could sway either way, which makes it a risky affair. If the defendant succeeds at trial, you don’t get anything.
Con: You might not recover as much as you deserve
Most of the time, the jury sides with the plaintiff and strives to maximize their compensation rewards. You might receive twice as much or more money through court than whatever the insurance adjuster is paying you. Out of court settlements are unlikely to address punitive damages, so you would be missing out on a hefty sum. The amount you attain in the settlement might only grant partial coverage for your damages.
Pro: Less stress, expenditure, waiting time
Court trials can take years to commence and the proceedings may go on for several months. Moreover, the outcome of a trial is unpredictable, which makes the ordeal even more stressful. The attorney fees for litigation are much higher and the legal costs keep adding up by the extended duration of the case. Personal injury settlements normally wrap up before a court date, which means lower expenses and waiting time. You may receive the payment within a month of signing the settlement agreement, so you can take care of the pending bills.
Con: You give up the right to sue
Once you accept a settlement offer from the defendant, you lose the right to challenge them in court and demand further compensation. If the defendant’s actions were unethical or malicious, you cannot hold them accountable after taking the settlement. It is likely that they make you sign a confidentiality agreement that prohibits you from exposing sensitive information that concerns their reputation or public image.
Pro: No room for appeal
Let us suppose that you win the case in court, but the defendant files an appeal. If this happens, the case will linger on and the defendant may eventually succeed in getting out of paying you any compensation. Therefore, all the time and money you spent on your claim will be for nothing. The best thing about out of court settlements is that they are binding and conclusive.
Pro & Con: The details of the case remain private
When a case enters court, the details of it become public record. Out of court settlements allow both parties to keep the information private. This is certainly a good thing, unless you aim to publicize the defendant’s action or wish to expose their wrongdoings.