Settlement vs. Trial in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

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When a person is harmed or injured, a personal injury claim usually results. These types of claims, which mostly involve negligence, can take two paths. A settlement claim can occur outside of court, or it can go through a trial.

The amount and type of money recovered in a personal injury settlement or trial can vary case-by-case.

Most personal injury claims will begin with settlement negotiations. If both parties cannot agree on a settlement amount through negotiations, then the claim would be pushed to a personal injury trial in court.

What Is a Settlement Agreement?

A settlement means a claim does not go to trial or court. To settle, the involved parties, including the claimant, their attorney, the insurance claims adjuster for the defendant, and perhaps the defendant’s attorney, must agree on a settlement amount.

The Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Settlements

A settlement is the value of compensation money a claimant receives after negotiations. This amount can cover payments including medical expenses and lost wages.

Damages paid in a settlement tend to be lower than if a person were to win a personal injury lawsuit. Be advised, however, that trials take more time and money than settlements do. This reason is why many lawsuits settle outside of court.

A typical settlement out of court follows the following steps:

  • The insurance claims adjuster calculates a settlement amount by reviewing similar personal injury claims. Keep in mind that an adjuster will usually get a claimant to agree to a lower amount than the claim could be worth. Liability coverage amounts also play a role in the settlement amount.
  • The claimant accepts or negotiates an amount. Persons settling in personal injury claims should remember the amount offered must be reasonable and cover most, if not all, of the personal injury costs and damages. This amount can include lost income, pain and suffering, and medical costs
  • The settlement amount is received. The claimant’s personal injury attorney will typically receive the settlement check. He or she will then disburse the recovery money to the claimant after expenses are paid.

Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Trials

The amount of money recovered in successful personal injury lawsuits is typically higher than the amount the claimant would have received through a settlement.

There are a couple of reasons for this finding:

  • A jury or judge awards the amount of money recovered, not an insurance adjuster. In a trial, a jury or judge’s decision is based on facts, not by reviewing other claims and averages generated by a program.
  • Settlement negotiations stall or end. If all parties cannot agree upon an amount, negotiations may stop. For example, if the compensation offered is lower than the claimant expects or needs, but the adjuster doesn’t budge, they might accept the smaller amount after waiting through the process.
  • Damages are higher in negligence cases. Most personal injury lawsuits are the product of negligent actions. Damages awarded in personal injury lawsuits involving negligence tend to be significantly higher than settlement negotiations. Personal injury lawsuits involving car accidents may have double or triple the amount of compensation than if a person were to settle out of court.

Deciding What to Do

Seeking the advice of an experienced Florida personal injury attorney is often vital to settlements, but especially so for trials. He or she can advise and negotiate settlement offers, and push things to court when necessary.

Keep in mind that insurance companies will often offer claimants higher settlement amounts after a lawsuit is filed to avoid the effort, costs, and publicity of personal injury lawsuits.