| Read Time: 4 minutes | Personal Injury

Deciding whether to settle a personal injury case out of court or to take it to trial is pivotal. This choice can dramatically affect the speed, cost, privacy, and potential compensation of your legal resolution.

Key Takeaways

  • Deciding whether to settle out of court involves weighing the benefits of a quick, private resolution against the potential for higher compensation through trial.
  • Settlements are generally faster, less costly, ensure privacy, and are less stressful compared to trials.
  • Trials may lead to higher compensation and public accountability for the defendant but involve uncertainties and higher costs.

How to Choose: Accepting a Settlement Offer or Going to Trial

Is it best to settle out of court? This is a crucial decision when you receive a settlement offer in a personal injury case. Defendants often propose settlements after a plaintiff files a claim, leaving you to accept the offer or proceed to trial.

At James Horne Law PA, we can guide you through this decision-making process. We carefully evaluate the merits of settling versus going to trial, always prioritizing your best interests. While we recognize the benefits of settlements, we are fully prepared to take your case to trial if it promises a more favorable outcome for you.

The Basics of Settlements

Settlements are voluntary agreements between parties in legal disputes. A settlement agreement is a binding contract that often includes. 

  • A release of claims, 
  • Compensation terms, 
  • Confidentiality clauses, and 
  • Dispute resolution mechanisms.

Parties can reach a settlement agreement at any point in a dispute. In some cases, a defendant will propose a settlement early to avoid litigation. In others, the parties will settle moments before trial. 

Why Do Lawyers Want to Settle Out of Court?

Most personal injury claims end with a settlement. Plaintiffs have many advantages in settling out of court.

Fast Resolution

Going through a full trial is a long process. It can take years to resolve a dispute, especially if a party appeals. Florida courts receive hundreds of thousands of cases each year. These filings can create a backlog, so you may have to wait until a judge is available to conduct the trial.

Plaintiffs who settle out of court can receive compensation, allowing them to pay for expenses and restore their quality of life.

Low Cost

Trials can be expensive, especially if they involve complex issues. You may need to hire an expert witness to speak about your injuries. Likewise, attorneys will need to bill time and pay for services related to the costs of taking depositions. Lastly, courts charge fees for filing documents and appearing at hearings and trials.

Both parties benefit from the settlement because it can reduce attorneys’ fees and costs. 

Privacy and Confidentiality

Parties often agree that their settlement will stay private. They often can’t talk about the terms of the agreement and can’t disparage each other in public. This is a contractual obligation, and violating it can expose them to legal consequences. 

Plaintiffs enjoy this confidentiality because it keeps others from knowing the details of their compensation. 

Low Stress

Taking a case to trial comes with some uncertainty. It’s hard to predict which side the jury will believe. Even if you win the trial, no one knows how much compensation the jury will award. 

When you negotiate a settlement, you can ensure it is on your terms. You have more control over the outcome, reducing much of the uncertainty of trial. 

Why Do Some Lawyers Advise Against Settling Out of Court?

While settlements are often helpful, they come with some downsides. Plaintiffs might decide to take a case to trial based on these factors.

Potential for Lower Compensation

Settling out of court often comes with lower compensation than you can receive at trial. Plaintiffs accept this reduced amount because it reduces all uncertainty. 

There is often no cap on how much you can recover at trial. The judge or jury can decide how much compensation you deserve and order the other side to pay. However, there’s also a chance that the court will award you a lower amount than you can receive through a settlement.

Can’t Take More Legal Action

Once a settlement is reached, parties typically agree not to pursue further legal action related to the dispute. This binding agreement ensures finality, preventing either party from reopening the case in court. 

Sometimes, a plaintiff realizes their settlement doesn’t compensate enough for their damages. They can’t pursue more compensation for these injuries, even if the defendant is liable. 

The Public Doesn’t Learn of the Defendant’s Wrongdoing

While confidentiality can keep your compensation private, an out-of-court settlement also prevents public accountability. Defendants often offer settlements to avoid scrutiny and protect their reputation. They admit no wrongdoing; others never learn about their negligence or bad acts. 

Trials are public. Anyone can see what was said in the courtroom and the court’s decision.

Speak with an Attorney Before Accepting a Settlement

Insurance companies often negotiate settlements for personal claims. These companies want to pay as little as possible. They often offer lowball settlements that don’t compensate for your injuries.

You need to have an attorney during this process. They can negotiate with the insurance company and ensure the final offer provides sufficient compensation. And if you can’t reach a proper settlement, your attorney can take your claim to court.

Schedule a Consultation

Don’t settle out of court without having a lawyer present. James Horne can review the facts of your case to give you personalized legal advice. He has helped clients recover millions of dollars in settlements over the last decade and is ready to help you next.

Call today to schedule a confidential consultation.

Author Photo

James “Jay” Horne is an AV-Preeminent rated aggressive litigation attorney, who focuses his practice on medical malpractice, personal injury and family law matters. He has successfully represented clients from case inception through trial and appeals in state and federal court. Jay was born and raised on the Suncoast. He is married and proud father to a one year old son. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, golfing and distance running during the cool months.

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