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Should I Settle or Take My Case to Trial?

Posted in Personal injury on March 12, 2020

During a personal injury lawsuit, you have two options for resolving your claim: settle or take your case to trial. Both have potential pros and cons. Most personal injury cases settle, meaning they achieve successful insurance settlement agreements without having to go to trial. If a lawyer believes a trial would be in your favor, however, you might proceed to court. Learn the benefits and drawbacks of each route. Then, discuss your case with a personal injury attorney in West Virginia to see which is right for you.

Pros and Cons of Settling

A settlement is an agreement made between you (the plaintiff) and the other party’s (the defendant’s) insurance company. It is an out-of-court process that often happens over the phone or through letters rather than in-person negotiations.

  • Pro: It is faster than going to trial. The average settlement takes three to six months from start to finish. This is less than half the amount of time the average trial takes. A settlement can be faster, more efficient, less costly and less stressful than a trial.
  • Con: You might receive less money in compensation through a settlement than you could feasibly attain during a personal injury trial in West Virginia.
  • Pro: You remain in control over the outcome of settlement negotiations. You and your lawyer have the power to accept or refuse a settlement offer, as well as negotiate for a better value. You will have no control over how a trial ends.
  • Con: It is typically permanent. Once you accept a settlement, you generally cannot do anything more with the case. You cannot renegotiate a better deal later, even if your injuries worsen. You can appeal a lost trial, however.

It is far more common for a personal injury claim to settle than to go to trial. Each case and injured victim is unique, however, and some may benefit from the court system.

Pros and Cons of Going to Trial

A trial involves both sides of the personal injury case making their arguments and presenting evidence to a judge and jury. The jury will then decide the final outcome of the case.

  • Pro: You could potentially obtain greater compensation in the form of a jury verdict. You could receive money for damages such as pain and suffering, which an insurance company might not offer.
  • Con: A trial can be a long and drawn-out process. A trial can last one year or longer in the West Virginia courts. It is also typically more expensive than a settlement, with fees for court costs, litigation and hiring experts.
  • Pro: You can achieve a greater sense of justice and closure during a trial since it proves the defendant’s fault or liability for your damages. A defendant could settle a case, on the other hand, without admitting liability.
  • Con: You may not win anything at trial. Going to trial comes with the risk of walking away with $0 in recovery. A trial does not guarantee any compensation. Settlements are more predictable.

It might make sense to go to trial if you have a high-value case and the insurer is not treating it reasonably. If you are not motivated to settle, you do not have to accept a settlement offer. A lawyer can help you proceed to trial instead.

Which Is Right for You?

Deciding whether to settle or go to trial takes looking at your specific situation, case value and personal goals. A lawyer can assess your case and let you know your odds of achieving a successful settlement vs. going to court. If you have minor injuries, for example, a settlement could result in fair pay.

If you have catastrophic injuries, however, an insurance company might refuse to offer a reasonable settlement. In this case, going to trial might be the only way to obtain fair results. Your individual goals can also play a role. A settlement might be best if you prefer a fast and private affair rather than the longer process of going to trial. Contact an attorney for advice about your specific case.