Reaching a good agreement can be one of the best resolutions on a civil claim. On the one hand, the conflict ends immediately, instead of being dragged to court for months or even years. On the other hand, you are guaranteed the money that has been offered to you.
If, on the contrary, you decide to go to trial and having won your case, you may not receive the payment from the defendant immediately and the total to be received will be lower.
Here are some factors that you should keep in mind when deciding if you want to resolve your claim or go to trial.
Calculation of the value of your claim
Accept the offered settlement or go to trial? It can be a complicated decision. You must take into account several factors, although the most important is the answer to the question: how much is my case worth?
The safest way to determine the value of your claim is to consult with a lawyer. While you may be able to add up the total medical bills, there are many other types of compensatory damages (lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) that you may be qualified to receive. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to evaluate your claim and estimate the total amount.
Identify a good settlement offer
Once you know how much your claim is worth, you are ready to decide on a settlement offer.
Some say that it is considered a good agreement when both parties are dissatisfied: the defendant paid more than he wanted, and the plaintiff accepted for less than he imagined he would receive.
In general, if an agreement offer is close to the value your lawyer estimates, then it is a good offer and should be seriously considered.
If the defendant is clearly guilty, then it is not advisable to settle for less than your initial offer of agreement. On the contrary, except: if a plaintiff was guilty, or even it was not known with certainty who was at fault, the total value of the claim will be lower.
Risks of going to trial
As we said, in the majority of claims, the best way to go is to settle the case. Here you can find the main reasons why:
Trials are expensive
Keep in mind that the earlier a case settles, the less expensive the litigation process is for both parties. The pre-trial discovery process can involve lengthy depositions, transcripts, examinations, and cross examinations.
The total cost of bringing a case into trial are in most cases double, that means the plaintiff will get less at the end of the whole process. For example; in a personal injury case the attorney normally would get a 1/3 of the settlement plus expenses, including fees vs. going to trial, the attorney would get 40% plus expenses.
Trials are long and stressful
Although a typical personal injury trial will not last more than a few days, the process of preparation can be extremely stressful for everyone involved. In addition, the weeks leading up to a trial can be very intense for both parties, not just their attorneys. A trial will often not get started until more than a year after the initial claim is filed. Even after one of the parties wins at trial, the other party can prolong the process by appealing the case. Even with a relatively simple personal injury case, it is not uncommon for the entire process to take 2 or 3.
With a settlement, an agreement is negotiated, the defendant pays some damages to the plaintiff, and the matter is concluded.
Unpredictability at the trial
While a jury may award the plaintiff much higher damages than what the defendant offers to settle the case, there is no guarantee. Trials are unpredictable. Key evidence showed during the trial might be excluded by the judge, eyewitnesses might come across as unreliable, inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s testimony might come out, etc.
Settlements are private, trials are public
In the majority of cases, unless the judge says the opposite, all the details of a trial are public record domain. This means all of the witness testimony; all of the evidence put out there will be available for anyone to read. By settling the case out of court, the parties are in complete control of what remains private and what remains public, including the settlement amount.