There’s often a misconception among people who file personal injury claims that they’re automatically going to trial. This likely comes from television and movies that display trial scenarios so often.
The reality is that most accident claims don’t make it to the courtroom.
So, why is that?
Most settle before they get to the point of a trial.
While settling tends to be the goal for many attorneys, and it’s rare not to, there are some car accident cases that do go to trial. The following are things to know about this legal situation.
A settlement is a formal resolution of your lawsuit that occurs before you go to court. When you work with a personal injury attorney, they can reach a settlement on your behalf at any point during the litigation process. In some cases, they can settle even before the filing of a formal lawsuit.
Settlements tend to occur after a negotiation process, often including back-and-forth communication, and then once the settlement agreement is reached, everyone signs a formal document with a release of liability.
If your personal injury case goes to trial, the involved parties argue their case in front of a jury or judge that will determine if a defendant is liable for your damages.
There are six general phases of a jury trial. The first is the assembling of the jury. From there are opening statements and then witness testimony. Cross-examination follows, and from there are closing arguments. The final phases of a jury trial include jury instruction and then jury deliberation before a verdict is finally reached.
Trials with a jury can take hours, or they can take weeks.
If you lose your case, you don’t receive compensation, and the case is closed. If you win, then you begin to work on collecting your payment. The party that loses has a short window of time after the initial verdict to file a motion for a new trial. They have as long as several months to challenge the outcome of the trial.
If the party that loses doesn’t file an appeal, you should receive your compensation within a few weeks.
There are pros and cons of both settling and going to trial.
For a lot of attorneys and clients, there are more pros of settling than going to trial.
When you settle, the process is going to be faster usually, and that means fewer expenses and less stress. You have more control when you’re involved in settlement negotiations. You can accept or deny offers and continue to negotiate what you think is the appropriate settlement. When you go through the trial process, you have no control. You have to accept whatever you’re given.
With that being said, trials aren’t without their own pros.
For example, you can potentially receive a higher amount of compensation, possibly significantly more, than if you settle. For example, juries are more likely to give a verdict with more compensation for pain and suffering, whereas the insurance company will try to reduce what they pay out for that.
Generally, a car accident case might go to trial if you feel as if the insurance company isn’t being fair in their negotiations with you or is acting in bad faith. You might not even agree with the insurance company about who was at fault for the accident.
If the parties cannot agree on who was at fault, then the trial is a time for each side to present relevant evidence to prove their case.
You have the right to a jury trial if you get to that point. You can also have a judge decide on a car accident case. For your trial to be determined by a judge, you have to waive your right to a trial by jury, which is something your attorney can go over with you.
Going to trial is most often not the optimal scenario in a car accident case, and avoiding this is one of the big reasons you would hire a personal injury attorney in the first place. A good attorney can help you negotiate and understand what fair compensation for your case is so that you’re not pushing for something that’s not realistic. An attorney will also advise you if they think going to trial will be your best option.