Statistical studies indicate that roughly 95% of accident cases end in a settlement, rather than a verdict from a judge or jury after a trial. The number seems staggering, but in most cases, both the injured victim and the insurance company for the at-fault person benefit from avoiding a trial.
Background: The Personal Injury Claim Process
When an injured victim has a legal claim for compensation against another person for any type of accident, the process begins with filing a claim with the at-fault person’s insurance company. When a claim involves significant injuries, the victim should retain an experienced personal injury attorney to handle the process from the very beginning.
Both the insurance company and the injured person’s lawyer investigate the accident and injuries and collect evidence relating to the facts surrounding the injuries. After both sides formulate their conclusions, they discuss the claim and the potential amount of compensation owed to the injured victim.
Settlement discussions take time. The insurance company and the victim’s lawyer discuss the details relating to the accident, as well as the nature and extent of the victim’s injuries. Both sides use tested strategies during negotiations to leverage the facts to their best advantage.
A settlement can occur at any point in the case. Sometimes, the initial discussions lead to agreement on the amount of compensation. Other times, the two sides simply cannot reach a resolution. Then, the injured person’s lawyer files a lawsuit to protect the victim’s legal rights.
In some cases, filing a lawsuit is necessary to protect the claimant’s rights from expiring under the statute of limitations. Other times, the injured person’s attorney files an action because a settlement seems unlikely. However, only about 5% of claims ever go to trial, even after a court action begins.
In a court action, settlement may occur anytime in the process. It may happen early on, or it may occur while the trial is in progress. In some cases, the parties even settle during deliberations by the jury or judge.
A settlement is a negotiated conclusion to a personal injury claim. When the parties agree to settle, the injured individual receives an agreed-on amount of money. In exchange, the victim gives up all rights to pursue any additional compensation for the injury. The settlement agreement is an enforceable legal contract.
There are reasons why settling often is in the best interest of both the claimant and the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Reason #1. Judges and Juries Are Unpredictable.
If a personal injury case goes to trial, neither the victim nor the defendant knows what the outcome will be. A jury might award a substantial amount of money. Alternatively, they might award a very small amount of compensation that does not even begin to compensate for the injuries.
Insurance companies are risk averse by nature. They do not like taking chances. For the insurance company, a settlement is a sure thing. It avoids the risk of a judge or jury awarding a much higher amount of damages. While the insurance company’s goal is to settle for the lowest possible amount, a high monetary verdict by a jury or judge is a risk they usually will not take.
The same thing is true for the injured person. While it is possible that a jury or judge may award much more than the insurance company offers, it also is possible that a verdict will be considerably less. The settlement guarantees specific compensation — a victory for the claimant.
Reason #2. Trials Are Extremely Expensive.
As soon as the victim’s lawyer files a lawsuit, fees, expenses, and costs start piling up for both sides. To prepare for trial, both sides document the facts through sworn testimony and other evidence. Often, one or both sides hire expert witnesses to testify about the accident or the victim’s injuries.
Lawyers for both parties spend a significant amount of time preparing a case for trial, even before the courtroom hearing begins. For the insurance company, that means the cost of the claim goes even higher. They pay their lawyer, as well as the court costs and expert witness fees. That increases the company’s out-of-pocket costs well beyond the compensation paid to the victim.
A trial has the same impact on the plaintiff’s side. Most personal injury attorneys accept cases on a contingent fee basis — so that the lawyer gets a percentage of the final compensation amount — but court fees and costs reduce the amount of compensation the victim receives. As the trial progresses, the amount of fees and costs grows. That means less money for the plaintiff victim in the end.
Reason #3. Trials Take a Long Time.
The court process is never short. From the time an action begins, it can take months to get to trial. The trial itself can go on for days or weeks.
Even if the trial ends with a verdict, the court process may not end. Either (or both) parties can appeal, which can mean the process drags on for years. During all that time, the victim receives no compensation.
An injured victim needs and deserves compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. Waiting a long time for that compensation is not a viable option in many cases.
Settlement brings closure of the legal process for the victim. It enables the injured person to focus on the future rather than the past, which benefits both the accident victim and his or her family.
The insurance company needs closure as well. When a court action drags on, it continues to cost the company time and money. Ending the case with a settlement is a preferable result.
Settlements Are the Rule in Personal Injury Cases, Not the Exception
For an injured victim, reaching a settlement does not have negative connotations — in fact, the opposite is true. Since 95% of all personal injury cases end in settlement, agreeing to settle a case is completely normal.
If you suffer serious injuries in an accident, and someone else is at fault, what matters most is choosing a skillful personal injury attorney to pursue your claim. You want a lawyer you trust.
You should have the confidence that your lawyer will do everything in his or her power to get the maximum possible amount of compensation for you and your family. In most cases, that compensation comes in the form of a settlement.
Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Accident Lawyer
If you received serious injuries in any type of accident that was another person’s fault, Virginia Beach personal injury attorney Jeffrey Brooke is here to help. The Jeff Brooke Team always keeps your and your family’s best interests at heart and aggressively pursues your case to get the full compensation you deserve.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.