Weighing the pros and cons of a personal injury trial versus an out-of-court settlement is an important decision that a client and his or her attorney must consider carefully. There is no right or wrong. However, the choice you make should be an informed one. Personal injury trial preparation is a lengthy process and can be an ordeal. On the other hand, it can be exceptionally beneficial, emotionally and financially, when a judge and jury side with you and you receive just compensation for your personal injury.
In order to get a better idea of which option is best suited for you, here is a short list of the pros and cons of settling a personal injury trial versus reaching an out-of-court settlement.
Pros of Settlement
Time – Claims are resolved sooner out-of-court. In general, settlements take much less time than trials. A case that proceeds to trial can linger for months and sometimes years. Typically, once a settlement is reached, compensation is awarded within 30 days.
Guaranteed compensation – Reaching a settlement guarantees some amount of legal compensation for your injuries. You will know how much you will receive and control the outcome.
Lower cost – By avoiding a trial, attorney fees and associated court costs are significantly reduced.
Less stress – After enduring physical and emotional hardship, one of the more stressful periods of your life, settling the claim and moving on is inviting. Opting to settle out-of-court reduces the burden, stress, or anxiety that you may feel about going to trial. Out-of-court settlements mean less time, less stress dealing with the case, and getting back to a routine.
Privacy – Once a case proceeds to trial it becomes a public record. Settling a personal injury claim is typically private and details of the case will not become public record.
Cons of Settlement
Lower compensation – Settling out-of-court may result in a monetary award less than what a judge or jury may award you for your injuries.
Confidentiality – Relating to privacy, if the negligence of your personal injury resulted from a defective product or dangerous condition, that information may be vital to share with the public. Settlements are generally confidential. That information will be kept private and not be shared with the public.
Free of wrongdoing – A settlement allows a defendant to admit no wrongdoing.
Limited punitive damages – A settlement may not take full consideration of any punitive damages such as emotional suffering and post-traumatic stress experienced as a result of the accident.
Pros of a Trial
Greater compensation – Presenting your case before a jury of your peers can sometimes result in being awarded a greater amount than that offered during settlement negotiations. Punitive damage compensation may also be awarded.
Public record – As a trial becomes public record, the defendant will be held publicly accountable for their negligent action(s).
Closure – Trials can provide a sense of closure for the injured party which allows them to move forward with their lives.
Cons of a Trial
Uncertainty – By proceeding to trial, even if yours seems like a clear cut case, you could be jeopardizing the ability to recover full compensation for your injuries. Trials come with an element of uncertainty. You may receive less compensation or the judge (or jury) may side with the defendant.
Proving negligence – In legal terms, Maine is a modified comparative fault state, which means fault can be shared by the victim and the negligent party. Fault is represented by a percentage. First, you must be able to prove you were less than 50 percent responsible for the accident that caused your personal injury. If the court determines that you were 50 percent liable or more, then you cannot collect any damages. Once a percentage of fault is established that percentage will be used as the basis to determine compensation for damages.
Time – Trials are generally time-consuming and lengthy. Add the time it takes to prepare for a trial and it could be months and years before realizing any compensation for your injuries.
Expense – Costs of going to trial add up. The cost of preparation, length of time, litigation and related attorney fees could potentially be deducted from your award.
Privacy – As mentioned, trials are public record. If you wish to have your affairs remain private, especially if the compensation awarded involves a large sum of money, you should not go to trial.
To weigh the pros and cons of going to trial versus reaching an out-of-court settlement, sitting down with an experienced personal injury attorney at Hardy, Wolf & Downing can help you decide on which course is best to follow. The law firm of Hardy, Wolf & Downing has helped their clients receive just compensation for decades. Call or contact us today.