If you are seeking compensation for an injury you sustained due to the negligence of another person or entity, you may need to go to trial to recover fair damages. The majority of personal injury cases will settle without going to trial. However, If your personal injury case is one of the approximately 3% that do go to trial, you will need to be prepared.
Going to trial may result in a greater award than settling, but it also carries a greater risk. An Illinois personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether you should take your case to trial.
Reasons Your Personal Injury Case May Go to Trial
There are several reasons that your personal injury case may end up going to trial. Generally speaking, if the involved parties cannot reach a settlement, the case will go to trial. Some common reasons a case may proceed to trial include:
- One or both parties feels confident they can reach a more favorable outcome at trial
- The amount of damages demanded by the plaintiff is too high (from the defendant’s perspective)
- The defendant does not want to set a precedent of settling this type of case
- The plaintiff believes that the defendant should be held publicly accountable for his or her injuries
- The defendant fails to offer a fair settlement award (from the plaintiff’s perspective)
Any of these factors can cause the parties to fail to reach a settlement. If either party believes a proposed settlement is unfair to him or her in some way, the case will likely go to trial.
Reasons Personal Injury Cases Settle
The majority of personal injury cases settle before trial. This is because in most cases, parties are able to reach an agreement that they both find fair. In many cases, parties want to settle to avoid the lengthier timeframes and higher costs associated with litigation. Parties may also want to avoid the risks involved in taking the case to trial. Sometimes, neither party is completely confident that he or she would win the case at trial. Reaching a settlement allows him or her to avoid the risk of having to pay a much larger amount if he or she is the defendant, or losing the entire case if he or she is the plaintiff.
Factors That Influence Whether a Personal Injury Case Goes to Trial
There are several factors that will influence whether your personal injury case settles or goes to trial. When your claim is more severe, the chances of a settlement decrease. Some of the factors that will affect whether your case settles or goes to trial include:
- The seriousness of your injuries
- The amount of pain suffered
- The amount of future medical expenses expected
- The amount of lost wages
A Chicago personal injury lawyer can help you determine the value of your claim. A defendant is less likely to agree to a higher value settlement, and as a result, higher damages may make your case more likely to go to trial.
What Is the Process for Reaching a Settlement?
A personal injury settlement is a written agreement between the parties that resolves the case. There are several steps that will occur leading up to the settlement. The first step is having your personal injury lawyer send a demand letter. The demand letter typically includes a summary of the facts relating to what happened, a detailed list of the injuries you suffered, and a list of expenses related to the injury. Expenses might include medical expenses and lost income. Finally, the demand letter will state the settlement amount you are seeking.
The defendant or the defendant’s insurance company will review the demand letter and may accept the terms of the settlement or make a counteroffer. Insurance companies use various methods to determine what settlement amount to offer. A personal injury lawyer can help you determine how insurance companies calculate settlements and what a fair amount might be. The amount of the settlement may depend on the extent of injuries or the presence of a pre-existing condition. A personal injury claim with a pre-existing condition might include injuries from a previous accident, congenital abnormalities, or medical conditions, such as asthma or epilepsy. The parties will negotiate back and forth with the goal of reaching an agreement. If the parties are not able to reach an agreement, your attorney will file a lawsuit.
What Happens if My Personal Injury Case Goes to Trial?
If your case goes to trial, a judge and jury will make the final decision about what the resolution to the case should be. Once negotiations fail, the next step is for your personal injury lawyer will file a lawsuit. Going to trial can significantly lengthen the time it takes you to receive compensation for your injuries. Most personal injury trials take place between one and two years after the lawsuit is filed. In preparation for trial, both sides will investigate the other side’s legal claims and defenses. This process is known as the discovery phase.
Before the actual trial date, the parties will likely participate in medication. Mediation is a process in which the parties and their lawyers get assistance from a neutral third party to try to reach an agreement. If the parties do reach an agreement, the trial can be stricken from the calendar. If, however, the parties still can not reach an agreement, that case will proceed to the trial.
The trial may last anywhere from one day to several days. The trial will begin with opening statements. Each party will be given the opportunity to present witnesses and to cross-examine witnesses. The parties will be given the opportunity to give closing arguments or a chance to summarize their arguments as well. The judge or jury will make the final verdict. In some cases, the losing party may appeal and be granted a new trial in the appellate court.