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Should I Accept a Personal Injury Settlement or Go to Trial?

For those hurt in a car accident, the prospect of a personal injury trial is a daunting one. After all, you already have a lot on your plate. As you manage your physical recovery, you may also suffer personal and professional setbacks as a result of the injury. Many insurance companies offer settlements quickly, hoping to bring closure to the matter and limit their financial liability. This moment represents the first crucial decision point for personal injury victims.

Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer Before Accepting a Settlement

It is advisable to consult a lawyer before accepting any personal injury settlement. A personal injury attorney can help you negotiate a more favorable settlement or, in some cases, file a lawsuit for damages. 

So what is the best option for you? It depends entirely on your unique situation. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can explain your options as they pertain to your case. However, the vast majority of personal injury cases do not go to trial. Instead, they resolve with a personal injury settlement. Why is that? I will explain the positives and negatives of each approach, in general. Keep in mind that your case may be the exception to the rule, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

The Basics of Settlements and Trial Verdicts

To reach a settlement, the plaintiff’s attorney must submit a demand letter. That letter will contain a specific demand for damages as well as a legal argument to justify the demand. Typically, it also includes copies of police reports, medical records, and any other documentation that can support it. 

A defense attorney or insurance company will respond to the demand letter, sometimes making a counteroffer. Then, negotiations occur between attorneys and/or insurance representatives. Settlement agreements are usually reached before the case ever goes to trial. The threat of a trial may remain in play as the parties negotiate. Sometimes, settlements are reached the same day a trial is scheduled to begin.

If a case goes to trial, attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant will engage in extensive preparation. This can become a costly process, but in rare instances, it is the only way to secure an acceptable outcome. The length of a personal injury trial can range from a few short hours to several grueling weeks. This is probably the biggest reason why most cases end in a settlement.

Consider These Factors Before Choosing to Settle or Take Your Case to Trial

  • Settlements allow you to have direct input into negotiations and the eventual outcome.
  • You can deny a settlement offer, and counter with demands that meet your needs.
  • With settlements, you can avoid costly, lengthy court proceedings and unfavorable judgments.
  • Settlement agreements are permanent, and the opposing party will be free of any future liability, even if your health condition worsens.
  • A judge or jury verdict could result in damages larger than a settlement agreement.
  • A judge or jury verdict could result in a loss, with no further options to pursue damages.
  • A trial victory could help fulfill a desire for justice, whereas settlement agreements do not include any admission of wrongdoing.

Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to settle out of court or take your case to trial is yours to make. Hire a personal injury attorney who has experience negotiating settlement agreements and taking cases to trial. Your situation is unique and the best thing you can do is learn and consider your options.

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