Should I settle or go to court is a question my clients ask often. My answer is always, “It depends.” That might sound vague, but each case is different. Each client is different. Everyone has a different tolerance for the often-lengthy process of pursuing a personal injury claim due to a car accident.
Let’s assume that your case has merit, and examine the differences between taking a case to trial and reaching a private settlement with an insurance company.
Going to Trial
Going to trial for a personal injury claim is a long, drawn-out process. At a minimum, you are looking at six month from the time you file the initial paperwork. It’s more likely that it will take up to a year or even longer to end your case.
The majority of you case will be spent in what is known as discovery. Discovery is simply the process where both sides investigate the particulars of your case. They interview witnesses to the accident, examine medical records, and yes, delve into your personal life.
This process can be stressful and invasive for the plaintiff, and let’s face it; the defendant has a stake in exerting pressure on the plaintiff. I try to make sure that all my clients are prepared for this pressure and do my best to shield them from most of it, but it’s important to understand that this will be a tough time.
After you win your case in court, the defendant has the opportunity to appeal. That means you do not receive a check when the judge strikes the gavel. It could take months or years before you receive your award. As I said, you are in it for the long haul when you decide to go to trial.
Accepting a Settlement
The majority of personal injury claims due to a car accident are settled out of court. In all honesty, this is because it’s generally a better option for both parties. If you have an especially strong case, the insurance company doesn’t have any reason to want to fight in open court.
The great thing about a settlement is that it is fast. You collect a check as soon as you sign the agreement. There is no lengthy discovery process, testimony, hearing, or appeals process. Your attorney will advise you whether a settlement is acceptable or not, but ultimately the choice is yours.
The decision to settle or go to court is often like a real life version of Deal of No Deal. Do you want the guaranteed money or what is in the mystery box? Do you want to go through the stress of picking another suitcase, or do you want to go home with cash in hand?
Going to court does not always mean you will receive more money than you would with a settlement. In fact, plaintiffs often receive less. Juries are difficult to predict, and you never know how they will view they evidence. You take that chance when you decide not to settle your personal injury claim out of court.
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