Attorney David I. Fuchs
Mar. 26, 2018
When perusing personal injury attorney websites, you might see the assertion that a trial is more likely to end in a greater compensation award than an insurance settlement. While this could be true, what they don’t explain is that trials are riskier and more expensive than a settlement agreement, often making the latter the better option for accident victims. There is a reason that most lawsuits reach a settlement before going to trial. The advantages of agreeing to a settlement are often more worthwhile for both parties.
One of the major advantages of taking a settlement instead of going to trial is the amount of time it will take to end the case and receive your check. Two parties can come to a settlement agreement in a matter of minutes in some cases, over the phone or in person. It often just takes a victim agreeing verbally or in writing to a settlement offer from an insurance company. There doesn’t have to be a lengthy discovery phase or jury trial to prove your case or receive compensation.
A trial, on the other hand, could take years to complete. Most trials don’t commence until about a year after filing your initial lawsuit in Florida. Trials take months of evidence gathering, discovery, interviews, expert testimony, and medical documentation. Even if you successfully win your trial, receiving your settlement could take additional months if the other party decides to appeal the case. Even a relatively simple personal injury lawsuit could take three to four years or longer to end.
Trials aren’t cheap, but an insurance settlement can be. Most personal injury attorneys work on contingency fees, meaning the lawyer will take a fixed percentage (often around 33%, or one-third) of the recovery amount. Should you lose your case, your lawyer won’t charge anything for his or her services. Should a case enter the trial, most attorneys will charge a higher percentage for work done, such as 40%. Trials take more time and effort, resulting in greater attorney fees and court costs. If you’re the defendant, you will generally have to pay your attorney by the hour. A trial could end up costing a defendant thousands of dollars in legal fees.
If you have a reputation to uphold or privacy to protect, a trial might not be in your best interest. According to Florida law, all personal injury trials are part of public record. The only exception is in the rare event that a judge orders to seal the records. Making your case part of public record means that anyone can read all your medical documents, the evidence against you, and other personal information. A settlement, on the other hand, remains out of the courtroom and out of the public eye.
When two parties agree to a settlement, they come up with their own agreed-upon amount without intervention from a judge or jury. This makes damages relatively predictable. During a trial, on the other hand, damages can escalate much higher according to the decision of the jury. Pain and suffering damages by jury decision can be much greater than the defendant was expecting or lower than the victim was expecting.
Every case is unique. Talk to a lawyer to find out which course of action is best for your particular claim.