Will My Personal Injury Case Go To Court?
The short answer is “probably not” but that’s not a bad thing.
Black’s Law Dictionary quotes U.S. government statistics that claim roughly five percent of all personal injury cases actually go to trial. Of the cases that do proceed to trial and that end up in the injured plaintiff’s favor, the majority are heard before a trial judge rather than a jury. Once plaintiffs secure that favorable verdict, trial judges also appear to pay higher damage amounts. You can read the full text of the article here.
What happens to the cases that don’t go to trial?
Typically most cases that do not proceed to trial are handled through a negotiated settlement between plaintiff and defense attorneys, though it’s important to note that not every injury claim results in a case being filed. Often, however, the odds are better for a negotiated settlement than a trial verdict. Negotiated settlements also help avoid the greater cost or expense of a trial. This is why anyone who has suffered a significant personal injury in Washington, DC will want to retain an attorney who is experienced in both pre-trial negotiations and at arguing a matter before the court.
How are personal injury cases negotiated?
All cases are unique and negotiations depend on the facts and the quality of the evidence that has been gathered and presented. Each side of the case will consider the evidence, including any investigation results and expert witnesses, the degree of harm, and the amount that each side is willing or able to offer and accept for a successful settlement. Plaintiff’s lawyers generally construct a damages package where all of the injured victim’s losses are outlined (this may include economic and non-economic damages). The defendant’s lawyers – many of whom represent insurance companies as well as individuals and corporations or companies – will typically submit their value of the case. Seldom do the two sides agree at first blush, hence the need for sharp negotiation skills. Often during this process there is a judge or a court-appointed mediator who is apprised of the progress in the negotiations and who can help facilitate settlements if the two sides are not that far apart.
The amount of time it can take to successfully negotiate a settlement can take mere days or weeks or, in some cases, months or years. It depends on many variables that are unique to the injury, the amount of money the plaintiff seeks, what the insurance company is willing to pay, the resources the defendant has to pay, and the strength of the plaintiff’s evidence. If the case goes to trial and if one side or the other is displeased with the result – either the verdict itself or the damages awarded – they have the right to appeal the decision.
What if I’m upset and really want to make the defendant pay?
Many people opt to file personal injury suits because they want to see justice done. This is admirable, and important. Accepting a negotiated settlement is not a slight to the concept of civil justice. The responsible party must still spend valuable time and resources defending themselves. It’s possible that the defendant will have to liquidate assets in order to pay deductibles or to cover any amounts beyond the amount for which they are insured.
Settlements may include provisions such as a formal apology, or a promise for an individual or organization to take steps to address their careless, reckless, or negligent behavior. All of these things help accomplish the goal of holding the responsible party or parties to account for their actions. If that cannot be achieved through settlement and if you have a strong case for compensation, then you can pursue your day in court.