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The Pros and Cons of Settling vs. Going to Trial in a Personal Injury Matter

Did you know that almost 95% of all personal injury claims are usually settled outside of court? When a personal injury settlement is reached outside of court, the parties involved reach a mutual agreement, and a trial before a judge and jury is no longer necessary.

However, for the 5% that do go to trial, court proceedings are usually non-negotiable. And while both options are viable for settling your case, they each come with their pros and cons.

Let our San Diego personal injury lawyers take a closer look at the pros and cons of settling vs. going to trial in a personal injury matter.

What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

A personal injury claim occurs when an injured party (the plaintiff) sues someone (the defendant) under the belief that their injuries were either a direct or indirect result of that person’s negligence or malicious intent.

Personal injury claims are civil matters, and two types of damages are usually awarded to the plaintiff upon a successful trial:

  • Compensatory damages are awarded by the court to the plaintiff as financial compensation for monetary losses incurred due to their injuries. These may include lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and legal fees.
  • Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are financial compensation that the court mandates the defendant pay the plaintiff as punishment for their actions and to deter future conduct.

The only situation wherein a personal injury case becomes a criminal matter is when the state or federal government files criminal charges against the defendant. In this case, imprisonment, fines, or both may result from the defendant’s actions upon successful prosecution.

The laws governing personal injury matters vary from state to state.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Settling Outside of Court

Settling outside of court is usually less expensive, risky, and time-consuming than taking the personal injury matter to court. However, the financial compensation may be significantly less than a jury may award you.

Some other benefits of settling outside of court include:

  • Paying fewer legal fees: The contingency rate for attorneys normally increases if you go to trial because the attorney’s costs and risk increase steeply by the time trial arrives.  
  • Spending less time away from work: Attending court can be incredibly time-consuming. Settling outside of court means you’ll incur no lost wages from missing work.
  • Less stress: Many unknowns go into taking a personal injury matter to trial. When you settle outside of court, you retain a degree of control over how the settlement is reached that you usually don’t get in a trial.

When you settle your personal injury case outside of court, you’re keeping the ordeal private and behind closed doors. Trials are public affairs. A defendant who chooses to settle outside of court does not have to admit liability or fault for anything.

That said, there are a few reasons why some personal injury cases still opt to go to trial.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Going to Trial

A plaintiff who feels morally invested in obtaining justice for the defendant’s wrongdoing may not want to sit and talk with them at a negotiation table. Despite the increased costs, time, risk, and stress taking a personal injury case to trial does carry benefits. These include:

  • Officially declared liability: A defendant who’s taken to court in a personal injury case and loses is officially declared at fault or partially at fault for the incident. This may not be the case when settling outside of court.
  • The potential for greater compensation: You’re more likely to win more compensation should you take your case to court and win; however, you’re equally likely to receive nothing if you lose.
  • Better closure: If the incident you experienced was especially traumatic and/or the defendant injured you maliciously, taking your case to court and winning may be the only way to get the closure you need.

While more of a gamble than settling out of court, taking your personal injury case to court and winning may grant you the highest compensation. Keep in mind, though, that personal injury trials are public endeavors. They can be time-consuming and take even longer if the verdict is appealed.

How should I decide between settling or taking my case to court?

It’s not your job to know all the ins and outs of settling vs. taking your case to court. If you’re torn between the two, hiring a personal injury attorney is your next best step.

The experienced and professional attorneys here at HHJ Trial Attorneys can help you navigate your San Diego personal injury case to the best of our ability, ultimately granting you the highest possible compensation. We incorporate a personalized touch into each one of our cases to ensure that you have receive the best possible outcome. Contact us for a free consultation.

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