Going to Court or Settling The Case: Which Will Get You More Money for a Personal Injury?

Going to trial can be a gamble. Like a good game of poker, you may never be sure what the other side has, the stakes can get pretty high, and in the end most players fold rather than face losing the whole pot. While the poker analogy can only take us so far, the truth is that insisting on going to trial can be a losing strategy unless played correctly.

The statistics are pretty clear on this: 92% of all civil lawsuits are settled or otherwise disposed prior to a trial. According to Professors Kent Syverud and Samuel Gross at the University of Michigan Law School, plaintiffs may, “do less well at trial than they would have by settling.” Their study of the pattern of outcomes in personal injury trials also showed that, “on average, personal injury verdicts are roughly midway between what the plaintiff demanded and what the defendants offer in settlement.”

That being said, insisting on trial can be a settlement strategy that you may want to discuss with your lawyer. Most insurance companies do not want to go to court. Trials are expensive, unpredictable and resource intensive. If you can position yourself as both willing and in a good position to go to trial then the threat of doing so may earn you a bigger settlement. Whether this strategy will work depends on a few factors that your lawyer will need to evaluate:

  • Liability – was there a determination of fault regarding your personal injury? If the other party was at fault, how was their behavior characterized in any reports or violations (e.g., reckless driving)? Did you contribute to or aggravate the injury?
  • Proof – what kind of evidence do you have regarding your personal injury? Was the actual event of the injury documented by police report, medical report or other official documentation? Are there witnesses willing to testify?
  • Damages – what kind of money can you realistically get from settlement vs. trial? What are similar cases worth? Are the judgments in those cases paid or appealed?

There are other factors to consider in going to trial such as the stress, privacy issues (trials are public record), and the time it takes (many trials drag on for years). Your attorney can help you work through these considerations and more to determine what the best course of action is for your personal injury case.

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