Have you suffered injury due to the carelessness or negligence of another person? In most cases, opting to seek legal advice to determining the monetary damages you are entitled to as a result of your pain and suffering is often the best course of action. Out of court settlements have been gaining popularity due to the benefits they offer. Not only are they advantageous for the plaintiff, but they are also an immensely convenient option for the defendants instead of the time consuming and stressful nature of civil litigation.
If you are a personal injury victim looking to get compensated, you need to put the following into consideration before deciding whether agreeing to an out of court settlement is preferable to taking the matter to court.
1. Lower cost of settlement
In most cases, the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit will have a contingency fee arrangement with his/her attorney. In a typical scenario, the attorney gets 33 percent of any pretrial settlement and 40 percent of any amount received after trial begins.
On the other hand, the defendant would also engage the services of an attorney, and pay an agreed hourly rate. This means the defendant incurs a significant out of pocket expense in a time intensive trial compared to settling out of court. But attorney fees are not the only expense you need to worry about with regards to the cost of a personal injury lawsuit. It is a requirement in law for expert witnesses to be retained so that they can testify in a personal injury case, and in many cases, this involves incurring costly hourly fees. Other costs that would be incurred in a lawsuit include travel, lost income from not working, court costs, etc.
With this in mind, it is plain that the more a case drags on, the more expensive litigation process becomes for both parties, especially for the defendant paying his or her attorney an hourly rate. Lengthy dispositions, particularly from experts, are a common feature in the pretrial discovery process which increases the length of the trial.
To save costs, it makes sense to settle out of court: your attorney spends less time in court, less time making the case, and less time preparing and as a result, the cost of his or her services also go down.
2. Unpredictable Juries make judgment and damages unpredictable.
It’s impossible to predict the decision that a jury will arrive at, and not even the best attorneys can guarantee that their client’s case will be won. While a plaintiff may be awarded much higher damages by a jury than what the defendant offers to settle the case, the unpredictability of trials makes taking your case to court when there is an option to settle a risk, rather than an advantage. Key witness may be discredited, inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s account may be pointed out, the admissibility of key evidence may be successfully disputed by the defendant’s attorney, etc.
But proving liability is just the first hurdle on the way to claiming compensation for personal injury; predicting the mount the jury will award in damages is even harder. Since awarding damages is the Jury’s discretion, trying to predict the number ahead of time can never more than making an educated guess.
But in a settlement, both the plaintiff and the defendant enjoy negotiated control over the amount of damages that may be paid out. Settlement is in fact, subtly encouraged in many stated by the requirement that the defendant’s attorney fees be paid by the plaintiff if the amount awarded after a court trial is less than what the defendant offered to settle out of court.
3. Out of court settlements are less stressful
While personal injury trial takes a relatively shorter time, the process can nonetheless, be extremely stressful for the parties involved. Both the plaintiff and the defendant have to be examined and cross-examined behind the witness stand, and sometimes, have their character called into question publicly. Moreover, the build up to the trial often involves being subjected to a constant barrage of paperwork and phone calls related to building the case. Having to prepare to face the company or individual being sued can cause apprehension and uncertainty not to mention the stress associated with the uncertainty that surrounds the entire situation.
On the other hand, settlement typically involves negotiating an agreement before the defendant pays the agreed damages to conclude the matter.
4. Reduced burden for both parties
A settlement reduces the plaintiff’s and defendant’s burden of having to make court appearances for depositions, mediation and the trial itself. This is a big advantage as it allows the two parties to dispense with the matter and continue with their day to day lives. It protects both parties from the emotional anguish of having to relive the situation that resulted in the lawsuit in the first place. Many people find it very difficult when they to speak about the details of the event that resulted in the injury and it can be emotionally challenging especially in front of a court audience. Opting to settle the lawsuit before going to court means that no one has to worry about testifying in a witness stand.
5. The defendant is not obligated to admit liability in a settlement.
This may seem like a bad deal for the plaintiff, especially if he or she feels the moral need to prove the defendant’s guilt but it is a significant benefit for both parties. In a settlement, the defendant need not worry having a public record of wrongdoing or negligence, which makes it more likely that he or she will agree to pay damages for injury suffered by the plaintiff without putting up a big fight. This is because; out of court settlements are private affairs.
In personal injury lawsuit all the arguments, witness statements and evidence both parties used to discredit each other are on public record for anyone to read.
Ideally, you should only go forward with litigation if you are 100 percent sure that you have a strong personal injury claim and the court will award you a significantly higher amount of compensation than the settlement amount offered by the defendant. In either case, speaking to a personal injury attorney for advice on what course of action to take is highly recommended