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Settling vs. Going to Trial in Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury: settling vs. going to trial

When you have been caught off guard by a personal injury – a car accident, motorcycle accident, slip-and-fall, or something else – weighty decisions come running before you can even fully recover. It may not feel fair that you now have to decide whether or not to hire a lawyer, whether or not to go to court, or even how long to persist in settlement negotiations. 

Settling and going to trial each offer benefits and drawbacks. What’s more, multiple types of case resolution methods are available. When you find yourself swimming in all these options, what can you do?

It’s imperative to consult a personal injury attorney who can explain the pros and cons to you before you run out of time to file against the other party. Keep reading to learn how to secure the best possible outcome for your personal injury claim.


When a Personal Injury Case Should Be Settled

There are valid reasons why only 1.5 percent of Massachusetts civil cases end up being presented before a jury in Massachusetts. Compared to filing a personal injury lawsuit, there may be a more suitable option for you.

Consider your and your family’s needs. It may well be that a simple settlement agreement can meet or exceed your expectations.

You might prefer the out-of-court settlement route:

  • To save time: Litigation can involve depositions, jury selection, and multiple hearings. These can prolong your personal injury case, all while your medical bills pile up. Conversely, settlements can be reached much sooner.
  • To save money: Your lawyer will be paid a percentage of your settlement no matter what, but attorney fees, civil court filing fees, expert testimony costs, and time spent can quickly accrue when preparing for trial. Your personal injury lawyer will spend more time on the lawsuit and, therefore, must be paid more.
  • For more certainty and control: The outcome of your trial cannot be guaranteed. The judge or jury could rule against you and you get nothing. Settling with the other party gives you more control over the terms of the agreement.
  • To maintain privacy: A court case will go on the public record and could even attract media attention. You must consider whether or not you can allow your health condition and the circumstances of your personal injury to become widely known.
  • To lessen the emotional toll on yourself and your family: A court case and its proceedings can be stressful and draining on both sides. On the other hand, out-of-court settlements can often be achieved by a personal injury lawyer on the client’s behalf.


When a Personal Injury Case Should Be Filed in Court

Instead of settling with the insurance company or liable party, you may prefer to file a personal injury lawsuit. Alternatively, your personal injury lawyer may advise you to proceed to the litigation phase.

Your attorney may suggest litigation if:

  • The at-fault party refuses to pay out a fair sum: If the liable party, or their insurance company, refuses to offer you the amount of money you need to cover your losses, filing a lawsuit may be the next logical step.
  • You prefer higher compensation: With the opportunity to present evidence in court and call witnesses to the stand, it’s possible to obtain more money at trial. 
  • Public accountability is desirable: An out-of-court settlement, though offering confidentiality, will not hold the at-fault party accountable in public view. Trials, though, expose the injustice that has occurred, while court rulings set a legal precedent for similar cases in the future.
  • Compliance issues are expected: Depending on the circumstances of the personal injury claim at hand, the other party may fail to comply with the settlement terms. This would result in further legal action.

That being said, there may be no need for your lawsuit to go as far as a trial. There are other ways to resolve your personal injury claim, and alternatives are growing increasingly popular across the nation.


Why You Need a Personal Injury Attorney for Either a Trial or Settlement

The skills and knowledge that reputable personal injury lawyers have built up over the years could prove to be invaluable to you. Just consider the stress, time spent, and expended energy you can spare yourself by working with a legal professional.

When pursuing a settlement, documents must be filed, phone calls must be made, and deadlines can’t be missed. It’s the same with filing a lawsuit. 

So don’t go it alone when you have an easier – and still affordable – option. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. That is why it pays to get help to ensure a fair sum of money can come your way.

Personal injury attorneys can get you a fair settlement

Both personal injury lawsuits and claims start with the same evidence-gathering period. When you hire a personal injury lawyer, he or she will have the resources and connections necessary to make this phase as efficient as possible.

By gathering valuable testimony and evidence

Experienced personal injury lawyers will have connections to experts who can support your claim. Personal injury lawyers can also gather medical documents, financial records, and police reports to align with the consulting expert’s opinion. 

Meanwhile, document after document must be filed while phone calls go back and forth with the liable party’s insurance company. Your time and effort spent on this would interrupt your busy life. Consider, too, that you may need to prioritize your health and recovery due to the injuries you have suffered.

By meeting your deadline

Your state’s statute of limitations restricts the time you have to file and settle a legal claim. With the help of a lawyer, it’s easier to gather evidence, identify the liable parties involved, and negotiate a fair personal injury settlement before time runs out.

When a personal injury claim is settled before the statute of limitations expires, that’s it. The at-fault party pays the victim, and then the dispute is resolved. 

By estimating the true value of your claim

Since you cannot go against the same party for further compensation later, your financial needs must be accurately estimated from the start.

An experienced personal injury lawyer will consider your short-term and long-term needs to determine what a fair settlement looks like for you. He or she can gather your medical records, consult experts, request proof of lost wages, and more.

Personal injury attorneys can make going to trial easier

When a personal injury claim goes on to the litigation phase, becoming a lawsuit, your lawyer’s duties in terms of paperwork and settlement negotiations by no means diminish. In fact, litigation can be more time-consuming than the out-of-court settlement process.

By taking care of the paperwork

Filing a lawsuit starts with “filing a complaint” in court. Then, the party you are suing is allowed some time to file a response. 

The other party may file a counterclaim against you, which means that you are now being sued as well. The defendant may try to have the lawsuit dismissed on legal grounds. 

This emphasizes why working with a seasoned attorney can make a big difference in the outcome of your litigation. You don’t want to give the other party an easy way to avoid paying out your due compensation. Rather, the paperwork and back-and-forth must be done right the first time.

By helping you through the discovery phase

The discovery phase is one of these back-and-forth processes. Both parties will gather evidence, interview witnesses, and exchange information at this time. You may be required to give sworn testimony at a deposition, for which an attorney can prepare you.

By fighting to resolve your case in your favor

These days, lawsuits rarely go so far as a court trial. Other forms of resolving the dispute may or may not be ordered by the court. The outcome is sometimes legally binding.

When the decision reached is not legally binding, and one or both parties still can’t agree on matters, then the case may proceed to pre-trial motions and the trial itself. 

Trials can be more time-consuming. What’s more, the opposing party could appeal the court decision, dragging the legalities out even further.

Working with personal injury attorneys ensures that your case is in good hands and that any form of dispute resolution could turn out in your favor.


How Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Makes Pre-Trial Settlements Possible

Most personal injury cases settle during the pre-trial phase. This is partly due to how ADR lightens the load on the court system. ADR is sometimes court-connected

The following forms of ADR may be available to you:

  1. Mediation: This voluntary form of ADR is possible before or after filing a lawsuit. A neutral third party serves as a mediator to find solutions that both sides of the dispute can agree on. The mediator’s decision is nonbinding and cannot be enforced. Either party could decide against the terms before a formal settlement agreement is made.
  2. Conciliation: This process is common among workers’ compensation cases in Massachusetts. Once the work comp claim has been filed, a neutral third party, the conciliator, serves in a similar way as a mediator by helping both sides come to an agreement and issuing a nonbinding decision.
  3. Case evaluation: Such an evaluation calls for the neutral party to determine the value of the case and its likely outcome in a more formal setting. These opinions are nonbinding, meaning the legal dispute remains unresolved.
  4. Mini-trial: A mini-trial proceeds much like what it sounds like, but the purpose of this step is to predict the outcome of a trial, not to make a binding agreement.
  5. Summary jury trial: This is nonbinding but allows for both sides to make their arguments before an actual jury. It serves as a way to predict the outcome of an actual trial and allows the attorneys to speak to the jurors about the reasons for their verdict.
  6. Arbitration: Either a neutral third party or a panel of 3 arbitrators is selected by the disputing parties. The final ruling can either be binding or nonbinding.
  7. Dispute intervention: This process requires court employees to meet with the opposing parties and their lawyers to find solutions and make recommendations that may have been ordered by the court. 

ADR may or may not be the right choice for you. Statistics indicate that the vast majority of voluntary ADR proceedings result in resolution, while only about half of all court-ordered proceedings are as successful. Discuss your options with an experienced personal injury attorney.


We Make Resolving Personal Injury Cases Easier

The experienced personal injury attorneys at Kiley Law Group understand how the intricacies of each personal injury case can make the difference between going to trial or settling out of court. There may be significant pros and cons you face either way, so come speak to our compassionate lawyers to learn more about settling, litigating, and ADR. 

Having a personal injury lawyer back you up means that the entire legal process can go much smoother. You will also have peace of mind knowing that your case is in good hands – therefore offering you the best possible chance of fair compensation.

Your initial consultation with our legal team is free and without obligation, so you have nothing to lose except precious time. Instead of missing your chance to receive fair compensation, call Kiley Law Group right away. At (978) 965-3228, you can reach our representatives 24/7.