Civil claims of varied types – including personal injury claims – are typically resolved in two ways. A personal injury case can be resolved through either an out-of-court settlement or a judgment in an injury lawsuit.
The bulk of personal injury cases resolves through settlements. However, a few need to undergo a trial to ensure fair outcomes. Knowing the difference between both can help you figure out which approach might be best for your specific claim. Here, experienced personal injury attorneys in Clermont, Florida at MANGAL, PLLC discusses both approaches at length.
Personal Injury Insurance Claim Settlement vs. Personal Injury Trial
A settlement means resolving a personal injury claim solely via the insurance claims process. A settlement is essentially a sum of money an insurer provides for dispute resolution with a claimant. An insurance claim settlement happens when the injured victim chooses not to take the case to court, and receives fair compensation from the insurer to cover his/her losses. In general, it is the amount that is within the insurance limits of the defending party. A victim has the legal right to negotiate that offer with an insurer until they mutually agree on a specific amount.
A personal injury trial, on the other hand, is usually the next step a victim may consider taking if out-of-court negotiations fail to work and don’t lead to the sum of money that you or your personal injury lawyer think is enough to cover all your losses. In this process, the jury makes the final decision, instead of you negotiating directly with your insurance claims adjuster. Both parties involved in the case present their sides of the case before the judge and wait for the ruling. You may choose to take your personal injury case to trial directly if the insurer rejects your claim from the beginning.
The Pros and Cons of Settling Your Personal Injury Claim Out Of Court
Benefits of Out-of-Court Settlement
Here are five benefits of settling your claim out of court:
- More Privacy: Whenever a personal injury case goes to trial, any related legal proceedings become public records. So, if you wish to keep your injury case details private, consider settling your claim outside of court.
- Faster Case Resolution: Taking your case to trial may extend the timeline to resolve the case, from weeks to several months or even years. If you are seeking a faster resolution of your case and you want to obtain recompense as soon as possible, settling your claim will probably be a better choice.
- Less Stress: Taking your case to court is both nerve-racking and time-consuming. Taking your personal injury case to trial can wreak havoc on your psychological health, but settling your claim out of the courtroom may allow you to avoid that stress.
- Simpler and More Predictable Process: When you settle your case outside of court, you get the surety of getting a mutually agreed amount in damages. However, you don’t get the same guarantee if your case goes to trial as legal proceedings can be extremely unpredictable.
- Less Lawyer and Legal Fees: Out-of-court settlements are typically less expensive than taking the case to court. Owing to less paperwork, your legal fees would be less. Your personal injury lawyer will also charge less as they will not require dedicating time to prepare your trial case, take depositions, find witnesses, and offer other types of legal services.
Disadvantages of Out-of-Court Settlements
While there are several upsides of settling a personal injury claim outside of court, you should also be aware of the possible downsides of out-of-court settlements:
- Chances to Get Compensation Less than You Deserve: If you choose a settlement out of court, chances are you will end up getting a lower settlement amount, compared to what you would have obtained via a lawsuit. This particularly holds true for accident cases involving severe harm, where policy coverage is not enough to cover all of your losses.
- The Insurer May Attempt to Unnecessarily Delay the Process: Although settling cases is generally faster than trial, the insurer may respond to your claim sluggishly – or use delay tricks to force you to settle for less than what you truly deserve.
- A Settlement is Permanent: Once you accept the offer from the insurer, you automatically lose the right to claim further compensation for your losses. In fact, you won’t be able to obtain extra recompense even if your injuries become severe later on – or you find new injuries after settlement.
- No Option to Seek Punitive Damages: A complainant can considerably enhance the value of their case by claiming punitive damages via a lawsuit. Having said that, punitive damages are an option only in cases that involve gross negligence or willful misconduct.
The Pros and Cons of Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you are planning to take your case to trial, it is crucial to weigh the pros and cons of this approach beforehand.
Advantages of Taking Your Case to Trial
Here are some benefits of taking your personal injury case into the courtroom:
- The Jury Verdict is generally Greater than the Pre-Trial Settlement Amount: The compensation awarded by the jury is typically way greater than the amount offered by an insurer. In general, insurers offer a settlement amount that lies within the limits of their policy, and many times, the injured victim ends up getting less than they actually deserve. Filing a personal injury lawsuit means you have better chances to get the compensation to cover all of your losses completely.
- You May Hold the Party at Fault Responsible: The other party (or their insurer) may settle your claim without admitting their fault ever. However, if you take the case to court, you will be allowed to hold the party at fault responsible for their deliberate act or negligent behavior.
- The Case Is Resolved by an Unbiased Party: A judge and a jury are always involved in a lawsuit. Both determine the party at fault as well as the amount to be awarded to the complainant.
- You May Receive Punitive Damages: As stated above, filing a personal injury lawsuit makes you eligible to receive punitive damages. However, these are awarded only in cases that involve gross negligence, recklessness, wantonness, and other forms of appalling misconduct.
Disadvantages of Going to Court
Just like settling a claim out of court, taking a personal injury case to trial has its own share of disadvantages. Some of the most prominent ones are as follows:
- The Unpredictability Associated with a Trial: It is impossible to predict the outcome of legal proceedings. While it may lead to a way bigger compensation, there is also the possibility of losing the injury case. When your case enters the courtroom, the judge and jury have full control over the case outcome. You should ideally talk to an experienced Clermont personal injury lawyer to discuss your specific case to figure out what you can expect should you choose to take your case to court.
- Lengthy Litigation: A court trial is, in general, a time-consuming and lengthy process that can considerably extend the timeline of your personal injury case. The court proceedings may last for months or even years in some cases.
- A Costlier Approach: Even if you secure a larger compensation, a fraction of your recompense will go toward the lawyer’s fees and litigation costs.
- Legal Proceedings are Public Records: Litigations are a matter of public domain. So, if you wish to keep the details of your case private, you can do so by settling the claim outside of the courtroom.
- The Burden of Proving the Fault: If you are taking your injury case to trial, you will require preparing a solid case for a favorable outcome (Of course, your personal injury attorney in Clermont, Florida will help you with this!). The plaintiff in a personal injury case has the burden of proof in order to demonstrate that the defendant was responsible for their injuries. You will be required to present evidence in front of the court to prove that the at-fault party was accountable for your condition. You will require proof that the at-fault party’s negligence caused the accident and that you sustained injuries and incurred losses due to that mishap.
Which Legal Option Is Appropriate for You?
Statistics depict that nearly 90% of personal injury cases are settled outside of the courtroom. However, this shouldn’t affect your decision. Every case is unique and should be assessed unbiasedly. Plus, these statistics might be misleading too.
Ultimately, it’s best to seek the expert advice of a skilled personal injury attorney in Clermont, Florida.
Your injury lawyer will review your case to offer you an educated opinion on the right legal option, based on your specific situation. They can highlight the strong points of your claim, and fortify your case to maximize your compensation.