Understanding When You Should Settle Your Personal Injury Case or File a Lawsuit
Most personal injury cases are settled out of court before trial, while others close well before a lawsuit is filed. Personal injuries suffered due to the negligence of another may leave you or your loved ones with lasting medical consequences. If you choose to file a lawsuit, your Minnesota personal injury lawyer will discuss your options of settling the case or going to trial.
A well-negotiated settlement may leave you financially secure and able to deal with the hefty medical and recovery costs associated with the injury. On the other hand, ending your lawsuit quickly runs the risk of undervaluing your claim. Our team of lawyers at Knutson + Casey understands that a trial can be lengthy and overwhelming. To understand which course of action is in your best interest, let’s examine the pros and cons of both settlements and trials.
How and When Is a Settlement Reached?
A settlement is a formal resolution to a matter which may happen:
- Before a lawsuit is formally filed
- At any stage of litigation (after a lawsuit has been filed), as long as no verdict has been returned
No two settlement processes are the same. However, settling a personal injury case will involve:
- Your personal injury attorney sends a demand letter which includes; a request for damages, a legal argument in support of your request, and copies of any supporting evidence (medical bills, estimates of lost wages, police reports, etc.)
- The defendant’s attorney will respond to the demand letter, usually with a counteroffer.
- Dialogs will begin between the lawyers and sometimes an insurance company to maximize compensation for your injuries.
- The parties may agree to terms that fall within the plaintiff’s initial demand and the defendant’s counteroffer.
If a settlement is reached, the parties sign a formal settlement document that includes a release. A release form absolves the other party from liability, meaning you cannot pursue further legal action arising from the same claim after accepting the settlement.
What Happens if I Choose to Go to Trial?
Our attorneys at Knutson + Casey have your best interest in mind. After discussing all legal avenues available with you, your lawsuit attorney may advise that the best course of action isn’t to settle. In that case, you will file a lawsuit and have a judge or jury trial.
A trial involves several phases:
- Opening arguments
- Witness testimony
- Closing arguments
The trial could be even longer if it consists of a jury, as it would involve the following phases as well:
- Jury selection
- Jury instruction
- Jury deliberation and verdict
A 2009 study at Cornell University shows that about 25-30% of personal injury cases go to trial, with around 66% settling in pre-trial.
Benefits of Settling a Personal Injury Lawsuit Over Going to Trial
Your personal injury case is inimitable and unlike any other. Therefore, your reasons for agreeing are different from any other person’s. There are several benefits to settling a personal injury lawsuit and avoiding trial, including:
- Settling is faster, more efficient, and less stressful than going to trial. This allows both parties to resolve the matter and get on with their lives more quickly than with a trial.
- Settlements give you more control, as you and your personal injury attorney are free to negotiate and reject settlement offers. However, the judge’s or jury’s decision is final at trial.
- A guaranteed outcome. Going to trial can be unpredictable as there is no assurance you’ll win. However, if you settle, both parties know the terms before signing the agreement, and you are guaranteed recompense for your injuries.
- Settlements are typically kept confidential and may include a clause not to pursue a further court case. In contrast, the results of a trial are made public.
- Attorneys’ fees are significantly reduced if a trial is avoided.
Nevertheless, settlements have their downsides too.
Benefits of Taking Your Personal Injury Case to Trial Over Settling
There are several potential advantages of going to trial and not settling your personal injury case:
- There is always a chance that the judge or jury will award more damages than you receive in a settlement.
- Public accountability. Trials may benefit a plaintiff who wants to be heard. Moreover, the defendant doesn’t have to admit wrongdoing in a settlement. A trial court will determine and publicly state whether and how the defendant did anything wrong.
- A settlement is permanent. If you append your signature to a clause not to pursue further legal action and your injuries deteriorate, you may be out of luck.
A trial is a high-risk, high-reward situation that may be lengthy, stressful, and overwhelming to the plaintiff.
Speak With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Minnesota
Deciding whether you should settle or go to trial is a decision unique to the specifics of your case. The experienced and professional Minnesota personal injury lawyers at Knutson + Casey will walk you through your case to determine which course of action will ensure you receive the maximum compensation you deserve. If you or someone your loved one is in a similar situation, you need an attorney on your side to help.
Our attorneys are trained and ready to handle personal injury cases and help victims successfully receive compensation and justice. We have helped thousands of personal injury victims across Southern Minnesota, and we want to help you, too. Contact the office of Knutson + Casey today at (507) 344-8888 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified attorneys.