In a personal injury case, you have the option to accept a settlement or take your case to trial. Sustaining an injury due to someone’s disorderly behavior or medical negligence can result in pain, suffering, and financial losses.
The majority of personal injury claims in the Republic of Ireland settle before reaching trial. Most accident types, including slip and fall, road traffic accidents, and medical malpractices, settle out of court and never make it to trial.
Going to trial can get the injured person more compensation than a settlement offer to cover the medical bills. A court hearing accounts for nuances such as psychological injuries that you may have suffered from someone else’s negligence. However, a trial can take years and has no guarantee of what the outcome will be. If your personal injury solicitor can negotiate a reasonable and fair settlement, there is no need to go through the exhausting processes of a court trial.
So, should you settle a personal injury claim or go to trial? Read on to learn more.
What is a Settlement?
A settlement is an agreement you and the defendant come to outside of court. This means you give up the option to sue the defendant at trial over your case. You can settle the case during litigation or before filing a lawsuit.
The process begins with personal injury solicitors submitting a demand letter containing the claim’s details and evidence to the insurance company or defendant’s lawyer.
The negotiation process follows, with the defense attorney responding to the demand letter and making a counteroffer. In most cases, you will receive a settlement agreement before going to trial. Sometimes it takes a settlement meeting between your attorney and the other side to reach a final decision. Once an agreement is reached, you will sign a formal settlement document which includes a release of liability.
What is a Trial?
A trial is where you actively pursue your claim in court. A jury or judge decides whether the defendant is at fault and determines the amount of damages you’re entitled to during the trial. The trial process goes through the following six stages:
- Assembling a jury
- Delivering opening statements
- Testimonies and cross-examining witnesses
- Providing closing arguments
- Instruction from the jury
- Jury deliberation and verdict
Depending on the strengths of your case, a trial can last from a few hours, weeks to many months.
Do Personal Injury Cases Settle Before Trial?
During a personal injury claim, you and your lawyer will negotiate a settlement and avoid trial. Generally speaking, your lawyer will negotiate a fair award depending on the damages caused by the other party. If the defendant or the insurance company involved offers a fair compensation offer for your damages and injuries, you should take it. If not you may push for a better settlement.
A fair settlement should account for future medical treatment if you haven’t fully recovered from your injuries. It’s important that the injured party provides the defendant’s law firm with key evidence such as medical evidence proving the extent of your injuries before the settlement negotiations.
The following are reasons why most personal injury claims settle before trial:
Legal proceedings are marred with uncertainty. During the discovery process, parties can exchange information and build evidence to present in a trial. Most claims are dismissed on technicalities such as missing a court date, lack of credible witness testimony, or unclear details of how the accident happened.
Litigation processes and trials are expensive. The preparation of reports, time spent traveling, and testifying can result in substantial additional costs. During the trial, the attorney has to spend many hours preparing pleadings, analyzing witness reports, reviewing documents, preparing witnesses, and arguing in court. By agreeing to settle, you can save a lot of money on legal fees and court costs. However, most personal injury attorneys operate on a fee basis to take their cut from the settlement money.
Filing a personal injury complaint can take over a year. Even if you win a case, it’s a long time to wait for compensation. What’s even worse, if the trial goes for an appeal, it will take additional years to complete a personal injury claim. Insurance companies often put up a spirited fight which further drags out the claims process.
Trials are public records. That means anybody can come into court and listen to what’s going on. A legal dispute can be personal, and most clients prefer keeping details and documents private. Settling out of court keeps specifics of your case confidential and unavailable to the public.
Walking into court is stressful despite how prepared you are. You will spend hours and hours with your lawyer as the case unfolds. The moments of motions, objections, opening and closing statements, and waiting for the jury to decide are tense. Settling out of court help you avoid all the stress.
How Many Personal Injury Cases Settle Before Trial?
According to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB), 50% of injury claimants settled directly between 2015 and 2019. 17% of the cases were settled through the injuries board, while 33% settled through court proceedings.
Most accident claims are settled out of court or dismissed before ever getting to trial. Some personal injury claimants choose to settle their claims through injuries board assessment because they don’t want to go through a long process.
However, if your lawyer feels you have a strong case, you can go to trial, and you have a good chance of winning. In court, your lawyer will negotiate a fair compensation depending on your injuries as detailed out in a medical report.
Do Personal Injury Claims Go To Court?
In the case you’re offered a settlement you find unfair, you can refuse to accept it and continue with your claim. Your attorney will file a lawsuit with the courts, and you can go to trial. This is the only time you have to go to court and answer a few questions.
If you win your case at trial, you can be compensated for your injuries and other related costs. However, you may end up spending more on legal fees than the court awards you.
You will also consider whether you want to drop your claim or continue with your case. You can’t change your mind mid-way through the trial process, which is why you should be very sure before you enter into the litigation process. A trial is a lengthy and expensive procedure that you may not recover from in terms of finances or time.
What Is The Average Time Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Take to Settle A Lawsuit?
People avoid filing for a personal injury lawsuit because of the amount of time it takes to settle a case. If you suffer severe injuries requiring extensive medical care, you will need more money to cover your medical expenses.
Fortunately, many lawsuits work their way up relatively quickly, with the help of a proactive and experienced lawyer. However, there are instances when the defendant will drag and delay the settlement process for as long as possible.
If your case is strong and straightforward, with solid evidence and clear documentation such as certified medical reports, it might take you only a few months. However, if you seek hefty compensation or establish negligence, the trial process can drag on for more than one year.
Whether to settle or go to trial for your personal injury claim will depend on the type of case you have. If your personal injury solicitor can negotiate a fair settlement without going to court, you can settle to avoid delays and uncertainties. However, if you have a strong case backed with solid evidence and the defendant refuses to pay, a trial will be the best option.