Civil claims, including personal injury claims, can get resolved two ways: either through a settlement or a lawsuit that involves going to trial. While most cases are resolved through settlements, sometimes it’s necessary to file suit to get a fair outcome.
The Difference Between a Personal Injury Insurance Claim Settlement and Going to Trial
When you accept a settlement, you resolve your personal injury claim with the insurance company. There’s no need to go to court because your attorney can negotiate the terms of a settlement on your behalf. A settlement agreement is basically when you accept a financial offer from the insurance company as a resolution to your dispute.
As the injured victim, you are the claimant. So you get to choose to accept the insurance company’s settlement offer or negotiate a better one. If you can’t reach an agreement, then you can proceed to take the case to court. In the end, an injury victim deserves fair compensation for all their losses and shouldn’t settle for less than they deserve. Generally speaking, insurance companies have limits and start with low offers. However, you have the right to negotiate a better offer that does you justice. Your attorney can do this on your behalf.
Unlike an out of court settlement agreement, if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit, you’ll go to court. Again, this is when you will need skilled legal counsel to represent you and present your case in court so you get the outcome you want. Personal injury lawsuits usually come about after you’ve exhausted your other options and haven’t been able to negotiate a fair settlement. Your attorney can advise you on whether or not an offer is fair, but it’s ultimately your decision to accept a settlement or not.
When your case goes to trial, your attorney will present your case along with evidence to support your claim. Then, a judge or jury will decide on a final verdict and an award amount if they choose to grant one in your favor. Both parties in court have a chance to present their case. So the at-fault party will be allowed to defend their case, just as you have a chance to present yours. If an insurer rejects your claim right off the bat, you may want to go directly to trial.
What Are the Pros and Cons of an Out-Of-Court Settlement?
The Benefits of Settling Out of Court
There are some advantages to settling out of court, and why most personal injury claims get resolved this way.
You Get More Privacy
When a case goes to trial it becomes public. If you wish to avoid publicizing your legal proceedings, you may want to consider settling your claim out of court.
You’ll Resolve Your Case Faster
Taking your case to trial means it will extend your timeline. It can take several weeks or months more – even years. But, sometimes going to trial is worth the extended timeline in order to get a fair outcome. Just because you want a faster resolution, it doesn’t mean you should accept an offer that’s less than fair. If you prefer to seek a faster resolution and obtain compensation as soon as possible, settling your claim out of court might be a better option for you.
It May Be Less Stressful
Going to court can be stressful and nerve-racking. It will also be more time consuming and could even affect your mental well-being. If you settle outside of court, you may be able to avoid the extra stress.
The Process Is Simple and the Outcome May Be More Predictable
Settling out of court is a simpler and more predictable process. You can negotiate until you reach a mutual agreement for a damage payment. However, when you go to court, you aren’t guaranteed any financial award, but will have to wait for a verdict from a jury or a ruling from a judge. Legal proceedings can sometimes be unpredictable, but when you have skilled legal counsel, you’ll feel a greater sense of security about going to court.
You’ll Have Less Legal and Attorney Fees
Out of court settlements are less time consuming and typically less expensive than going to court. Your attorney will need to do more work to prepare for trial. There is an extensive amount of paperwork and other technical details that need to be handled properly to prepare for trial, such as preparing witnesses, depositions, and other specialized legal services. As such, the fee you owe your attorney may be larger after going to trial than if you settle out of court.
Out-Of-Court Settlements Can Have Potential Disadvantages
Most personal injury cases get resolved out of court, but not all. While there are some advantages to settling out of court, there are also potential downsides that you need to be aware of before making a decision.
You Might End up Getting Less Compensation Than You Want or None at All
There’s a chance you’ll end up getting less compensation than you want or none at all. If you choose an out-of-court settlement, you’ll most likely get a lower settlement amount than going to trial and winning a financial award through a lawsuit. This is particularly true for accident cases involving severe injuries or when insurance is insufficient to cover all of your losses and damages.
It Can Take Longer to Settle
Settling a case is faster than going to trial in most cases. The insurance company might deliberately delay their response to your claim or use manipulative tactics to get you to settle for less than you deserve.
Once You Accept a Settlement Offer, the Agreement Is Final
After you agree to accept a settlement offer, the case is closed, you don’t have another opportunity to seek further compensation for the same accident or any losses you discover later down the line. This is often the case when an injury Cirilo accepts a settlement offer only to find that their injuries worsen and they need more financial compensation to reach maximum medical recovery but have already accepted an offer.
You Won’t Have the Option to Seek Punitive Damages if They Are Applicable
While punitive damages are rarely awarded in Florida courts, settling out of court means you don’t have the chance to claim them at all. Punitive damages are relevant in a case where the at fault party was grossly negligent or conducted willful misconduct to injure the victim.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Taking your case to trial means you need to weigh the pros and cons of doing so beforehand. This is a serious legal proceeding that will require insight from a skilled attorney with litigation experience.
Pros of Taking Your Case to Trial
There are some benefits that will come about from taking your personal injury case to the court:
- Jury verdicts usually award more than a pre-trial settlement. The compensation you’ll get from a jury award is typically much more than what the insurance company will offer you in a settlement. They have policy limits so they can only offer you but so much. That means their settlement offer is often less than what you actually need to cover all your damages. By filing a personal injury lawsuit, you have a better chance at winning compensation that will adequately cover your losses.
- You can hold the negligent party accountable. The at-fault party of their insurer might settle the claim but not damit their fault. Going to court means you can hold the at fault party accountable and responsible for their negligent actions.
- Your case verdict is decided by an unbiased judge and jury. A judge and a jury will be involved if you end up filing a lawsuit. They both determine fault based on the evidence you and the other side present, as well as how much to award the claimant, if any. Unlike the insurance company, who is worried about protecting their profits, a judge and jury merely review the facts and make an objective decision according to the evidence.
- You may potentially receive punitive damages. Filing a personal injury claim means you are eligible to receive punitive damages. However, as we discussed already, they are seldom awarded in Florida personal injury cases. They are generally awarded in cases where the at fault party was grossly negligent, intentional misconduct, recklessness, or acted with wanton disregard that resulted in your injuries.
Factors to Be Aware of Before Going to Court
In the same way settling out court can have potential downsides, this holds true for taking a personal injury case to trial. There may be some unexpected difficulties that arise such as:
- Unpredictable outcome. It’s impossible to know the outcome of a trial since a judge and jury have control of the verdict and ultimately decide on the outcome. While you do have the chance to win greater compensation, there’s also a possibility you’ll lose the case all together. Once your case goes to court, the judge and jury have control over the outcome, but having strong legal representation can significantly increase your odds of winning your case. Consult with a knowledgeable St. Petersburg personal injury attorney who can give you a better idea of what to expect in court and if doing so is a good option for you.
- It will take longer. Generally speaking, a court trial takes longer than settling out of court. It will extend the timeline of your personal injury case and there is no fixed or guaranteed timeline. It could take months or in some cases even years.
- It will cost you a bit more, but may be worth it. If you end up winning a financial compensation, you’ll then owe a percentage of that to your attorney as their fee and litigation costs.
- Your case will also become a public record if it goes to trial because litigations are public domain. If you wish to keep your case details private, you’ll need to do so by settling the claim out of court.
- Preparing for court requires extensive preparation. You will bear the burden of proof, to prove the other party’s negligence when you go to court. That means you’ll have to prepare a solid case with clear and convincing evidence to support your claim. That’s why you need a St. Petersburg Personal injury attorney with trial experience and who knows how to devise a winning strategy. They know how and what evidence to collect to show that the at fault party was negligent and that their negligence caused your losses.
Contact an Experienced St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorney to Determine Which Legal Option Is Appropriate for Your Case
About 90% of personal injury cases get resolved and settled out of the courtroom. However, this doesn’t mean you need to settle out of court. If your case has unique circumstances that will make it better for you to go to trial, our legal team is not afraid to get ready to fight for you. The best way to make an educated decision on whether you should settle out of court or go to trial is by consulting with an expert St. Petersburg personal injury attorney.
We will happily review your case to assess what option is best for you. We understand how difficult it is to battle with injuries while missing work and having bills pile up. You deserve justice and we want to help you.