Many of our clients imagine that they want to push their personal injury cases all the way to trial. They’ve seen big headlines with big personal injury awards, and many of them have come after big trials.
Yet in reality, it’s almost always better to settle a case instead of to take it to court.
Those Big Headlines Don’t Tell the Whole Story
Those big headlines probably didn’t make the recipients rich. A great deal of that money went to medical bills, and to making sure those who can no longer work will have something to support themselves on for the rest of their days.
The biggest payouts happen for the most grievous injuries, the kinds of life-altering hurts that nobody truly wants to suffer through.
Juries Don’t Understand the Limits
Juries aren’t told that there are limits on personal injury awards. For example, most insurance companies won’t pay past policy limits. There are “deep pockets” cases where you’re going up against big corporate interests or trucking companies where you can recover all of the rest of that money, but those cases aren’t always typical.
In addition, those “deep pocket” interests tend to fight back, so they tend to get those awards reduced on appeal once the headlines have quieted down. Some injury victims still receive more than they would have from a settlement, but not often.
Settlements Are Predictable
When you come into our office and give us the facts of your case we generally can calculate what it’s going to be worth. We can offer you a best-case scenario, where you get a maxed out pain and suffering award for your type of injury, and a worst-case. A fair settlement will be somewhere between those two figures. Any settlement that makes any sense will pay your medical bills. It will account for the way that comparative negligence might impact your case, but for the most part most settlements will more or less get your needs met. They will also get money into your hands a lot faster.
If you take a case to trial, you introduce an element of risk. The jury might award you more than that best-case figure, but they might award you considerably less. Or nothing at all. When you go to trial you can lose. Most of the time the insurance companies have done the same calculations and just want to get in and out for as little as they can get away with. Once a lawyer is involved and they know the case is winnable it just becomes a matter of negotiating the details.
That’s not to say you should never go to trial, and that’s not to say that some insurance companies do not sometimes push a matter to trial that shouldn’t be there. It simply means that you should listen closely to your attorney’s advice when they urge you to take a settlement offer.