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Is It Better To Settle Or Go To Trial?

This article was reviewed by Freddy Saavedra for accuracy. Visit Freddy Saavedra's LinkedIn Profile Why settling is the better option based on court trends

Legal disputes cause headaches for both plaintiff and defendants, especially since they may come with heavy financial costs. Many disputes deserve to go to trial for their moral significance and lead to policy changes that affect society and the public. However, current trends indicate that a plaintiff who settles is more likely to be satisfied with their decision than those who went to court.

Many factors are involved when deciding between a trial or settling out of court. Although the case may have strong ethical or emotional significance to a plaintiff, the judge or jury may not feel the same way.

Every detail and piece of evidence should be taken into consideration before a plaintiff makes a final decision. Legal advice from a skilled attorney allows clients to weigh their options and make better-informed decisions with a greater sense of clarity and understanding. Clients should see a doctor to determine their degree of personal injury and hire an experienced attorney that highlights this to the court.

The court process

The court process is a tedious and stressful part of any civil case. The number of cases ruled in favor of defendants who went to court has surged since 2005. Disputes resolved without a trial resulted in a more favorable outcome for both plaintiffs and defendants. The current legal system is overwhelmed with cases, and it takes time and resources to go through the process.

Lawyers should be upfront with their clients when explaining the risks of going to trial, as they are with their forecast of financial gain if they win the case. You should know that it may not be in your best interest to go to trial in some cases.

The pros of the court process include:

  • A higher financial reward than a settlement if ruled in favor of the plaintiff
  • Public policy changes as a result of the case. For example, a health-related personal injury case against a hospital can lead to health reform that benefits the public

When it comes to negative aspects of going to trial, they may outweigh the possible positive outcomes.

They can include:

  • Uncertainty: A trial is riskier than a settlement due to the unpredictability of a jury verdict or judge ruling. The ability to predict an outcome is tricky, and the decision is not always clear-cut
  • Privacy-Loss: Once a case is taken to trial, its records are made public unless explicitly ordered sealed by a judge. This includes details about the plaintiff's character that the other party will try to present in an unsavory light
  • Cost: The expenses of a trial are numerous and may include attorney fees, time spent away from work, travel expenses, and depositions. If the judge rules in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff can incur a major financial debt and burden
  • Stress: Stress levels are elevated once a person goes to trial. Increased stress levels, coupled with the risk of financial debt and reputation loss, can lead to numerous health problems.
  • Outcome: An outcome is not final, even if a plaintiff wins a case in court. A defendant can file for an appeal, which drags the case further
The settlement process

For both parties involved, settlement results in a better deal and trial outcome while drastically reducing the time spent on the case. A settlement is often the most popular choice for civil cases, with 80% – 92% of cases being managed outside of the courtroom.

Settling out of court comes with several benefits:

  • Overestimation: Plaintiffs can overestimate the strength of their defense and evidence in court. Studies show that when a plaintiff decides to go to trial, they make the wrong decision 61% of the time. On the other hand, defendants made the wrong decision only 24% of the time when they took on a case
  • Ethics: A case should be settled if there is no significant moral or ethical transgression involved on the part of the defendant. The decision to forgo a trial leads to less risk in terms of financial loss. With no trial process, court, or travel costs to worry about, both parties save themselves from the unnecessary financial burden that comes with a case dragging on in court
  • Satisfaction: Settlements reached by attorneys ensure that both sides are satisfied with the result. Skilled attorneys can negotiate better deals for their clients without a judge or jury’s input
  • Confidentiality: A confidentiality agreement can be included in a settlement deal if one or both parties would like to keep the details of the case private. A defendant does not have to admit liability in a settlement case, which means no public account of negligence or wrongdoing will result from the agreement
  • Permanency: Since a financial settlement also comes with a clause to not pursue litigation, the plaintiff does not have to be concerned about an appeal. With a settlement, the plaintiff does not worry about overestimating the extent of a personal injury case and being rejected in court
The role of a law firm

Going to trial is a costly process for plaintiffs and defendants. Attorney fees can accumulate with every hour spent in court, regardless of the case’s length and the outcome. This is less of a concern for a plaintiff who hires the Saavedra Law Firm, because we do not charge any fees unless you, the plaintiff, wins.

The role of a law firm cannot be questioned in its importance during a trial, especially a skilled one in a complex case. However, a plaintiff should examine the financial incentive of an attorney that seeks to take a case to trial. In a settlement, the attorneys for each party usually receive 33% of the final settled amount. Knowledgeable personal injury attorneys negotiate secure contracts that best serve their clients.

When a Plaintiff Shouldn’t Settle

With all this said, there are times when a plaintiff should not settle their civil case. This applies if the injury is severe or if the negligence on the part of the defendant is unacceptable. Another reason to take a case to court is if both parties cannot come to a reasonable agreement. This applies to the compensation of damages requested by the plaintiff, which could be disproportionate to the actual injury. It also applies to the sum that the defendant agrees to pay, which may be too little.

Another reason not to settle has to do with the benefit of the greater good and setting a precedent for future cases. When a personal injury can introduce or change a regulation that serves the public good, it may be valid and necessary. Usually, a skilled attorney will know when a case can establish precedent, and they will inform the plaintiff of the importance of their situation.

When asking if it is better to settle or go to a trial, the defenses, defense attorney, and details of the injury should be carefully weighed against the legal process. If the reasons are strong and ethically necessary, a trial may be the better option. However, cases that are settled outside of a courtroom tend to be more satisfactory, less expensive, and more impartial for all parties involved.

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