Should I Settle My Personal Injury Case or Take it to Trial?
June 24, 2012
Although every personal injury case is different, nearly all victims of personal injury will be presented, at some point, with the following question, “Should I settle my case or should I take it a trial?” Again, the answer to this question depends upon a variety of factors that may be specific to your case, but there are general considerations applicable to nearly all personal injury cases.
Can I “win” my case?
First and foremost, if there has been an offer to settle your case, the offer needs to be evaluated in light of the probability of success that you will be able to “win” your case. When we are talking about winning your case, what we are really talking about is whether or not the other party is responsible for your injuries. (At this point, we are not talking about how much money you will win, but rather whether or not you will be successful at all). Can we prove that the other party is responsible? Is it a clear cut case, or are there issues which may prevent a jury from finding in your favor?
Thus, before evaluating whether or not you need to go to trial you need to determine with some degree of certainty whether or not you will win your case. For example, I will actually provide my clients a probability of success. I will sometimes explain that I believe that if we try the case 100 times, I believe that we will win 95 times . Or I may explain that we have a 50% chance of winning. Other times, I may believe that the chances of success are slim unless we can prove certain facts. While it sometimes may be difficult to do, It is important to try and put some level of probability on the success of your case.
Remember, if you are the victim of personal injury, you have the burden of proving your case. This means that you have to affirmatively establish the facts that entitle you to win. It is important to understand is that a jury verdict must be unanimous. You have to convince not just one member of the jury that you will win, but all 12 members of the jury must be in agreement for you to be successful.
If I win, how much money will I get at trial?
Let’s now assume at this point that there is a strong likelihood that you are going to win your case. So if you win, how much money will the jury will award? As discussed earlier, it is important to remember that a jury verdict must be unanimous. This means that all 12 jurors must agree on a monetary value for your claim. In order to understand the value of your claim you need to know what the law allows a jury to consider.
Under Georgia law, a jury is generally entitled to consider the following items of damages in determining what amount to award you in your Georgia Injury Claim. For each item you have to be able to prove that the underlying incident caused the specific item of damage that you are seeking. (Please note that some of these items may or may not be applicable to your specific case – again it all depends upon your specific set of circumstances):
- Past Medical Bills
- Past Lost Wages
- Future Medical Bills
- Future Lost Wages
- Permanency of Injuries (How long do you have to live with the injuries)
- Scarring, Disfigurement, etc.
- Loss of Consortium (this applies to a spouse)
- Punitive Damages (if circumstances of the case warrant it)
When it comes time to make the decision to settle or try the case, your attorney should be able to give you a range of values that he or she believes are achievable on your claim. While this will obviously be an estimation, it is important that your Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer at least give you some guidance on what he or she expects a jury to do. When I am advising my clients on determining the value at trial I typically provide a high and low range of what I think a jury will award.
How much will it cost to try my case?
An important consideration in deciding whether or not to try your case is to determine how much it will cost to try your case. Trial expenses can add up quickly: filing fees, court reporter costs, deposition fees, expert witness fees, etc. can all add up to thousands of dollars. Does your lawyer need to spend $2,000.00 to try your case or is it going to cost $10,000.00?
If you are being offered $20,000.00 to settle your case and your attorney thinks that the value from a jury is $30,000.00 or $40,000.00 then it may make sense to take your case to trial if the expenses can be kept low; however, if the expenses are high, it may make sense to settle. An experienced Personal Injury lawyer should be able to provide an estimate of how much money it will cost to effectively try your case.
How long will it take before I get to trial?
While each case can be different, I typically advise my clients that they can expect the litigation process to take a year or longer. This is an important factor to consider when evaluating whether or not to settle or try your case. A dollar today is worth much more than a dollar tomorrow. Depending upon your financial situation, the length of time necessary to try your case can be a very important factor in deciding whether or not to settle your case.
This is a very broad overview of some of the considerations that go into the trial vs. settlement analysis. It is also possible that your case could settle after a lawsuit is filed but before the case actually goes to trial. Many times we have filed a lawsuit and been able to increase the offer after the other side realizes that we are serious about pursuing the claim. It is important that you discuss your claim with an experienced personal injury attorney who actually has trial experience (and trial success!).
If you or somone you know has been a victim of personal injury, please call our office for an experienced personal injury attorney in Atlanta, Ga for your free, no obligation consultation. We stand willing and ready to help.