Being involved in a personal injury claim is stressful for both the plaintiff and the defendant. Settling the case out of court has many advantages for everyone involved. Consult an attorney if you want to consider bypassing court altogether. He or she will advise you on the pros and cons that are specific to your case so you can make the best decision.
When weighing your options, consider the following factors, as they can help you determine whether a settlement is more advantageous or if taking your chances in court is more appealing.
Trials are expensive compared to settling out of court. While the plaintiff may have a contingency fee arrangement with their attorney, typically the lawyer will get one-third of a settlement, but 40% or more of any amount that is awarded during trial by a judge or jury.
A defendant will also typically hire an attorney that charges an hourly rate, and time-consuming pre-trial preparation means significant out-of-pocket costs compared to offering a settlement. In addition to attorney fees, additional costs must be factored in for expert witnesses, court costs, travel expenses, and lost wages when missing work.
The earlier a case is settled, the less costly it is for both parties.
A trial usually takes up to one year before a court date is scheduled, and even then one of the parties can prolong it by filing an appeal. The entire process for a simple personal injury claim can take up to three years – or longer.
A settlement allows both parties to work toward a fair figure during a shorter timeframe and both parties can put the matter behind them, sooner than later.
A standard personal injury trial does not last more than a few days in court but the process can be stressful for everyone, especially plaintiffs and defendants who take the stand and are thus subject to cross-examination. Their character will likely be called into question, and this can be a very embarrassing and emotional experience.
The weeks leading up to the court date is also stressful and labor-intensive for attorneys on both sides. Although there will be tense moments involved with any settlement decision, it will not be to the extent of a court experience.
All the details of a court case will be public record, unless a judge decides to seal the records, which rarely happens. There’s a good chance that both sides will try to make the other look as bad and malicious as possible. Even when the judge or jury has made their final decision and the case is closed, these details can have serious, negative consequences for individuals and organizations.
Admission of Liability
Settlements do not require a defendant to admit to liability. However, if a defendant loses in court, and loses any subsequent appeals, he or she has officially been proven liable for the victim’s injuries.
Both parties are taking a risk by going to court. No matter how strong the evidence is the law may not end up working out in your favor. A judge or jury who has the freedom to award compensation may be more or less giving than anticipated. With out-of-court settlements, both parties have more control over the final outcome.