Personal Injury Settlement vs. Jury Verdict: Which is Better?
If you have been injured as a result of another person’s negligence and are evaluating your legal rights, you are not alone. While exact numbers are not available, statisticians in the past have estimated that more than 300,000 personal injury cases are filed each year. Further, this statistic doesn’t take into account the thousands of cases that are settled before a lawsuit is filed.
While the vast majority of personal injury cases are ultimately settled, statistics also show that thousands of cases go to trial every year. Thus, it is not surprising that we are constantly asked questions about why some cases are settled while others continue to trial - and whether one outcome is better than the other. We will discuss those issues in this article.
What is the difference between a trial verdict and a settlement?
To put things into legal terms, a settlement is an enforceable contract that resolves the parties’ legal dispute. In other words, the parties agree to a variety of contractual terms, including the amount of money that will be paid to the injured plaintiff. In return, the party being compensated agrees that the case is final and that no further requests for payment will be made. A settlement agreement can be negotiated before or after a lawsuit is filed.
A verdict, on the other hand, is a decision issued by the jury after considering all the evidence, law, and argument presented to them at a trial. The jury determines if the defendant is liable for damages, and if so, the amount of the damages. If the court accepts the verdict (which it usually does), the court will issue a judgment based upon the verdict.
The benefits of settling a personal injury case
There are a number of benefits that are often associated with settlement, as discussed below.
- Cost/efficiency: When parties are able and willing to settle, the process is often more efficient and less costly. The parties can avoid paying expert witnesses to come to court and avoid other costs associated with trials. However, even with settlement, it would be unusual for all of these costs to be avoided. For example, paying the necessary fees to obtain medical opinions is often necessary, even in cases of settlement, to convince insurance companies that serious damages are owed.
- Stress reduction: Many litigants find the prospect of a trial to be quite stressful and seek to avoid that stress. We understand and attempt to resolve cases on behalf of our clients. Even if a trial becomes necessary, we attempt to shoulder the stress so that our clients don’t need to.
- Maintaining control: Both parties maintain some amount of control of their own destinies when a settlement is reached. When a case goes to a jury, there can be unexpected results. Thus, settlement can help both parties shield themselves from the risk of the unknown.
- Voluntary and immediate payment: Settlement usually results in the defendant (likely through his or her insurance company) paying the settlement amount promptly. Trials can delay this payment and result in drawn out appeals.
Are there times when a trial is preferred or necessary?
Absolutely. Every injury victim deserves to be fully compensated and made whole. On some occasions, the opposing party or insurance company simply refuses to pay a fair settlement. This can happen for lots of reasons that are no fault of the plaintiff. In those cases, a trial is necessary to fight for full compensation.
Additionally, there are some cases in which the parties simply disagree on the facts and a jury is needed to resolve the dispute. A perfect example is an intersection crash where both parties claim they had a green light.
Call with questions
When deciding whether it is better to settle or go to trial, the real answer is that it depends on all the facts and circumstances of a particular case. When cases can be fairly settled, it is positive for everyone. However, if the case can’t be settled, you need experienced personal injury trial attorneys like those at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield who will represent you at trial and fight for your rights.
We believe that it is essential to hold all negligent parties fully accountable for their actions so that everyone in the motoring public will be safer. Please call us for a free consultation.