Personal injury is a branch of civil law that pertains to disputes over damages between private parties. Many personal injury lawsuits result from car accidents caused by negligent driving, but they can also arise from premises liability claims, dog bite injuries, negligent security, and injuries from dangerous or defective consumer products. In a personal injury claim, the claimant, also known as the plaintiff, issues a formal Complaint outlining damages they have suffered to the local courthouse and names a defendant, or the party the plaintiff believes to be liable for their claimed damages.
After a plaintiff and their legal counsel issue a Complaint to the defendant in their case, the personal injury claim will go one of two possible ways: either the two parties will sit down at the negotiating table and reach a mutually agreeable settlement or the case will proceed to trial. Settlement is almost always preferable to a trial for both plaintiffs and defendants, simply due to the fact that it will be very expensive for both parties to pay for legal representation through intense, long-term litigation. If you are involved in a personal injury claim or about to file your Complaint, you should have some idea of whether your case will go to trial.
Consider the Complexity of Your Claim
Simply put, the more room there is in a Complaint for argument from the defendant, the higher the chance will be that the lawsuit will proceed to trial. In a highly complicated lawsuit, the defendant’s personal injury attorney will likely search for anything they can find to weaken the plaintiff’s Complaint and challenge their claim of liability.
Some personal injury claims may involve multiple defendants, and this can further complicate matters in unexpected ways. Defendants may disagree about their levels of liability for claimed damages or attempt to shift blame to one another to avoid their own liability for the plaintiff’s losses. In these situations, it is likely for complex personal injury cases to proceed to the trial phase.
How Convincing Is Your Evidence?
The strength of the plaintiff’s evidence and the clarity of fault on the part of the defendant are arguably the most important factors in determining whether a personal injury case will end in settlement negotiations or go to trial. If the plaintiff has a rock-solid case with indisputable evidence and the defendant acknowledges that they have no room to contest the plaintiff’s claim of their liability for damages, it is in the defendant’s best interests to settle the matter as quickly as possible.
The evidence that comes into play in a personal injury lawsuit hinges on the root cause of the claim. In a car accident lawsuit, the plaintiff’s attorney may offer evidence including vehicle computer crash data, traffic camera footage, photos from the scene of the crash, the plaintiff’s medical report outlining their injuries, and eyewitness statements. If the plaintiff has enough available evidence to present during settlement negotiations, there may be very little room for the defendant to argue.
Benefits of Settlement Over Trial
The vast majority of personal injury cases end in settlement negotiations simply due to the fact that settlement offers the most expedient resolution to the issue for all parties involved. For the defendant, agreeing to a settlement means paying out the plaintiff’s claimed damages and putting an end to the matter. Both parties will sign a settlement contract, in which the plaintiff agrees to put an end to the legal matter in exchange for the defendant’s payment of the settlement amount. For the plaintiff, settlement offers a preferable alternative to the expense and risk trials pose.
When a plaintiff takes their personal injury claim to trial, there is no guarantee the plaintiff will win in court, or at least no guarantee they will win as much as they expected. They will also spend money on legal fees depending on how long the case continues, and this applies to the defendant as well. The longer the case, the more both sides will pay in legal fees. Settlement can end the matter quickly and get compensation into a plaintiff’s hands as quickly as possible, whereas a protracted trial can mean months or even years before the plaintiff receives any compensation for their damages.
Should I Settle or Prepare for Trial?
In the vast majority of personal injury cases, a settlement is going to be the preferable option to a trial simply due to the time and money you’ll save with a successful settlement negotiation. Most personal injury attorneys will attempt to settle their client’s claims as quickly as possible to maximize their recovery.
Unfortunately, a trial is not always avoidable. If you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit and aren’t quite sure what to expect, it’s essential to meet with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC in Folsom, California to schedule a case evaluation with an experienced personal injury attorney who can provide you with a realistic analysis of your case.