Imagine this: A motorist is rear-ended by a pickup truck, and she exchanges information with the other driver. While waiting to hear from the truck driver’s insurance company, the rear-end victim starts feeling pins and needles in her arm and hand. A visit to the chiropractor diagnoses whiplash and prescribes a course of treatment. Although she has health insurance that will cover the costs, the chiropractor asks if she has considered a personal injury lawyer. The lawyer has represented many of the practice’s patients, and can help their clients claim compensation not only for medical costs and car repairs, but for missing work and pain and suffering as well. The injured driver calls the law firm and schedules a meeting. After a few rounds of negotiation between the law firm and the truck driver’s insurance company, she receives her settlement payment without having to go to court.
It sounds like this story has a happy ending – but did the accident victim’s law firm make the best choice in not going to trial? What are the pros and cons of settling versus going to trial in a personal injury case?
Pro: Faster Resolution With Settlements
Settlements often offer a faster resolution in personal injury cases. Court trials can be lengthy, sometimes stretching out over many months or even years. This drawn-out process can cause additional stress and uncertainty for the injured party. On the other hand, settlement negotiations can usually be concluded within a shorter period. This expedited resolution means the injured individual may receive their compensation sooner rather than later. This can be especially important when facing mounting medical bills and other financial pressures related to the injury. By choosing to settle, the injured party can potentially alleviate some of the financial strain and gain closure more quickly, allowing them to focus fully on their recovery. In the example of our driver rear-ended by the pick-up truck, she received her settlement payment within two months of submitting her claim.
Con: Potential for Lower Compensation in Settlements
In choosing the faster option of an out-of-court settlement, our driver likely also sacrificed a higher award in the process. Settlements, while quicker, may lead to lower compensation in personal injury cases. When parties agree to settle, they often accept a lower amount than what they might potentially receive from a court trial. This is done to avoid the uncertainty and unpredictability associated with trials. While receiving a lower sum might seem disadvantageous, some see it as a reasonable trade-off for the assurance of receiving a definite amount, rather than risking a trial where they could possibly walk away with nothing. Despite the speed and certainty of settlements, the possibility of lower compensation is a significant drawback to consider, as it may not fully cover the losses and damages suffered by the injured party.
Pro: Confidentiality in Settlement Agreements
One notable advantage of settlement agreements in personal injury cases is the confidentiality they offer. These agreements typically include clauses that keep the details of the case and the settlement amount private. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who wish to avoid the public exposure that can come with a trial. In a world where information travels fast, preserving privacy can be crucial. From the specifics of the injury to the amount of compensation received, settlements ensure that these details do not become public knowledge. For those who value their privacy or wish to shield themselves from potential public scrutiny, opting for a settlement might be a more appealing choice.
Con: Lack of Public Accountability in Settlements
Settlements, while offering the benefit of confidentiality, can also lead to a lack of public accountability. When a personal injury case is settled out of court, the details of the incident and the actions of the defendant are not put on public record. This means that negligent parties may not face public scrutiny for their actions. Furthermore, they could potentially repeat their harmful behavior, since there is no public record of their past negligence. This lack of accountability and transparency can be viewed as a significant drawback of settlements. For those who seek not only compensation but also public acknowledgment of wrongdoing, a trial may seem a more fitting option.
Pro: Certainty and Control in Settlement Negotiations
Settlement negotiations in personal injury cases offer a higher degree of certainty and control over the outcome. In a settlement, both parties have the opportunity to negotiate the terms and agree on a compensation amount. This allows for more predictability compared to a trial, where the final decision rests in the hands of a judge or jury, and the outcome can be uncertain. With settlements, there is a guarantee of some compensation, unlike trials where there is a risk of walking away empty-handed. This level of control and assurance can be particularly appealing in personal injury cases, where the injured party may desire a more predictable outcome to plan for their future and ongoing recovery.
Con: No Guarantee of Fairness in Settlement Amounts
While settlement negotiations provide more control over the outcome, there is no guarantee that the settlement amount will be fair. The agreed-upon compensation could be considerably less than what might be awarded in a trial. This is often due to the need for a quick resolution or the fear of losing at trial. Furthermore, once a settlement is accepted, it is generally final, leaving no room for revisions if the injured party later realizes that the amount is insufficient to cover their damages. Therefore, while settlements offer certainty, they might not always reflect the true extent of the injuries and losses suffered. This lack of guaranteed fairness is a significant downside to consider when contemplating a settlement.
The choice between settling and going to trial in a personal injury case is a nuanced one, fraught with potential advantages and drawbacks. The speed and confidentiality of settlements may appeal to many, offering a swift resolution and a guarantee of some compensation. However, this path can also lead to a lesser payout, limited public accountability for the at-fault party, and a potentially unfair settlement sum. Conversely, going to trial may secure a larger compensation, public acknowledgment of negligence, and a potentially fairer judgment. Yet, this comes at the cost of time, public exposure, and an uncertain outcome.
Our experienced team is ready to guide you through your options, ensuring your interests are adequately represented and your rights are protected. Don’t hesitate to reach out or call 504-526-2222 for a free consultation.