Only one in 20 personal injury cases is resolved in a court of law. If you’re unsure if your case will be that one in 20, continue reading.
As each auto accident case is unique, so is the decision to settle the claim or take it to court. Your choice of attorney can also greatly impact this decision.
Realistically, the most recently-available statistics report that 95 percent of pending lawsuits end in a pre-trial settlement. This means that a mere 1 in 20 personal injury cases is resolved in a court of law by a judge or jury. If you’re unsure if your case will be that 1 in 20 to make it to court, continue reading.
The Early Phases
Following an auto accident, your first step should be to receive immediate medical attention. While this step is crucial for your health, it’s also necessary for your claim. Not immediately receiving treatment allows a claims adjuster or opposing injury company a chance to argue that your injuries were either not serious, or were not directly related to your accident.
Properly document all aspects of your medical care, including diagnosis, treatment, and prescriptions as well as expenses and copies of all bills and payments. Once you have your documents in order, your next step is to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer experienced with claims arising from traffic accidents if you haven’t done so already. A knowledgeable car accident attorney is integral to building a solid case for compensation.
Your auto accident attorney will best understand the law in your state, the facts of your case, and your chances of winning at trial. After reviewing all available information, your attorney will decide whether to make a demand and attempt to settle the case out of court, or file a lawsuit.
The Deciding Factors
If your attorney decides to attempt to settle out of court, he or she will make what is known as a demand. This is the amount estimated that your case is worth once you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). Waiting until you’ve reached MMI allows your attorney to seek the highest amount of compensation possible, since you have received all medical bills related to the injury.
Next, your attorney will discuss your case with the defendant, or responsible party, to negotiate your demand. If both parties cannot agree upon a settlement amount, your attorney will likely proceed with a lawsuit. The case now enters a stage called discovery, in which the accident is researched by obtaining reports, documents, and witness accounts. Both sides are required to share with the other what they have learned in discovery.
If both attorneys cannot settle the case by themselves following discovery, they may try mediation or arbitration.
Mediation: Both sides present their case and engage in settlement negotiations. These will be facilitated by a mediator, with both parties as well as their attorneys receiving the opportunity to contribute. Mediations are non-binding; either party reserves the right to accept or reject the offer.
Arbitration: A hearing will take place between the plaintiff and defendant, judged by a neutral party known as an arbitrator. Arbitration is binding; when an arbitrator makes a decision about the settlement, it is final.
If settlement is still not yet reached, your attorney will have no choice but to head to trial. Trial can occur within weeks or over a year from the end of mediation.
Will My Case Go to Trial?
While only four to five percent of personal injury claims will become formal personal injury lawsuits, there is a chance your case could make it to trial. If you’re concerned about whether or not your auto accident attorney will take your case to court, it’s best to look at the common reasons why a case would head to court.
Both parties cannot agree on who caused the accident. If the plaintiff and the defendant cannot come to an agreement regarding who was responsible for the accident, there are few options but to go all the way to trial.
Both parties cannot agree on compensation amount. This can occur for many reasons, including when a claims adjuster is unable or unwilling to negotiate, the defendant is being unreasonable, or your attorney feels you deserve more than the offered settlement. When both parties cannot agree on compensation, the case will head to trial.
The plaintiff chooses to sue. In some cases, you may actually believe that it’s necessary to head to the courtroom to receive fair compensation and receive justice for the accident.
On the other hand, there are several reasons as to why your attorney would be hesitant about heading to court. ·
Stay out of the public eye. In the situation that the case involves a larger company or individual with a public profile, your attorney may choose to keep the case out of the public eye and settle out of court.
Receive a swifter settlement. Trials can extend for months, or even years, in the case of appeals. If a victim is suffering under lost wages and medical expenses, an attorney may not want to make them wait for financial compensation.
A safer option. When a case goes to court, there is no guarantee that you will win the case. In cases where fault could be debated, settling can be a safer option.
The Bottom Line
A knowledgeable auto accident attorney understands that the decision to settle or go to court can be incredibly complicated. That’s why choosing an experienced lawyer that you trust is so important to your case.
The bottom line is, a majority of personal injury claims are resolved before a lawsuit is filed. However, if an adequate settlement cannot be reached outside of court, your attorney will file a lawsuit in court. If you’re unsure if your case would head to trial, speak with a trusted attorney in your area. Take advantage of free consultations or case evaluations, and use them as an opportunity to discuss your options with a skilled attorney.
With a talented attorney by your side, your chance of compensation will increase regardless if you settle or go to court.