When someone files a personal injury claim, they might receive a settlement offer to compensate for their injuries. These offers may seem attractive, but accepting them too quickly can come with unseen risks.
At James Horne Law PA, many of our clients receive these offers and ask us, Should I settle or go to court? While settlement and court trials are useful, our firm can review your case and determine which best resolves your claim.
What Is a Settlement?
A settlement is a legal agreement between parties in a dispute. The parties enter this voluntary resolution to end legal issues outside of a courtroom. In most cases, one party will provide compensation while the other party withdraws their legal complaint. Settlements can contain standard terms, but most are unique agreements based on the parties’ needs.
Why Do Parties Settle?
Parties choose to settle claims for various reasons. Some of the common motivations include:
- Time and cost efficiency. Parties value settlement because it offers a swift resolution. Litigation can be long and expensive, and settlement helps save time and money.
- Risk mitigation. Parties may choose to settle to minimize the uncertainty of court proceedings. A settlement allows them greater control over the outcome and avoids the risks of a trial and unpredictable judgments.
- Privacy concerns. Settlements give parties the advantage of confidentiality. By resolving matters outside the public eye, individuals and businesses can protect sensitive information and maintain privacy that court proceedings often lack.
- Preservation of relationships. Disputes sometimes occur between parties with ongoing business and personal relationships. Settling avoids the adversarial nature of trial and can help people maintain amicable connections.
- Flexible solutions. Settlements provide a platform for creative and flexible solutions. Parties can tailor agreements to meet their specific needs, getting results that may not be possible through a court judgment.
- Emotional considerations. Legal disputes can be emotionally draining. Settling allows parties to avoid the emotional toll of a trial and reduce stress.
- Certainty of outcome. Parties often opt for settlement to secure a predictable and mutually agreed-upon resolution. This contrasts with the uncertainty of court outcomes, where judgments may not align with the parties’ expectations.
- Avoidance of appeals. Settlements are final decisions. Once you agree to the terms, the other party can’t appeal or challenge the result.
In total, settlements provide private, customizable solutions that resolve matters once and for all.
What Is a Court Trial?
A court trial is a formal legal proceeding before a judge or jury. The court’s decision is a binding judgment as a matter of law. At court, your personal injury lawyer may present evidence, make legal arguments, and examine witnesses. The judge or jury hears the evidence and applies relevant laws to make a determination. Court trials provide a structured and regulated environment to resolve the legal dispute fairly.
Why Do Parties Go to Court?
Parties choose to go to court for a multitude of reasons. Some of these can include:
- Adjudication of disputes. Courts provide a structured and formalized setting for the resolution of legal conflicts. Parties may go to court because it lets an impartial third party make a legally binding decision.
- Establishing legal precedent. Courts make decisions based on what previous courts have decided. Some parties take cases to court to establish precedents, especially if they think the case is very important.
- Full disclosure of facts. Court proceedings involve a thorough examination of evidence and testimony. Parties may choose court to ensure that all relevant facts are brought to light so the public can see the other side’s bad conduct.
- Addressing complex legal issues. Some disputes involve intricate legal questions that require the expertise and guidance of a court. Parties who can’t agree on an issue may go to court for a thorough legal analysis and interpretation.
- Challenging unfair practices. Many civil disputes arise based on unfair and deceptive conduct. Parties can go to court to determine if the conduct was illegal and what damages they can receive.
- Appealing decisions. Parties dissatisfied with the outcomes of a court decision can request an appeal. This allows a higher court to review and potentially overturn the previous judgment.
Overall, courts provide a more structured and fair process for parties who can’t reach a mutual agreement.
Should I Settle or Go to Court?
Choosing how to resolve a dispute isn’t an easy decision. Speak with an attorney about the following factors to see which choice is best for you.
Facts of Your Case
Look at the available facts and evidence to determine the strength of your case. Plaintiffs like to take strong cases to trial because the liability and damages are easy to prove. Judges and juries often provide high compensation in these cases, especially if evidence shows the defendant acted egregiously.
On the other hand, settlement may be the better option if the facts or evidence are questionable. Taking these claims to court may lead to lower compensation than you need or no compensation at all. Likewise, defendants often agree to settle these claims because they avoid lengthy litigation and public scrutiny.
Clearly define your desired outcome. A court trial may be necessary if your goal is a specific judgment or legal precedent. Alternatively, settling could be more suitable if reaching a swift resolution or preserving relationships is important.
Also, evaluate your financial priorities. If a settlement offer covers your damages, accepting it may be your best option. However, if you still need more compensation, taking the case to trial may be worth it.
The Other Side’s Actions
Consider the other party’s openness to negotiation. If they are willing to engage in meaningful discussions and compromise, a settlement can be a solution.
However, you may need to go to trial if the other party refuses to cooperate. A looming trial can apply pressure to motivate a party to settle. Moreover, it can help you get the compensation you deserve instead of accepting a lowball settlement.
Insurance Policy Limits
Defendants in personal injury cases often have insurance coverage to cover the costs of a settlement or legal decision. Insurance policies have limits, meaning the carrier won’t provide compensation over this amount. Private negotiations can lead to a settlement close to this limit. If not, going to trial may help you get the full value of your claim. However, if the current settlement offer is at the policy limit, going to trial may not provide you with more compensation.
Speak with an Attorney
Don’t accept a settlement offer without working with a personal injury attorney. James Horne Law PA can help evaluate your claim and determine if a settlement is worth accepting. Our firm represents various plaintiffs in Florida and is ready to help you next. James is a fierce negotiator and won’t hesitate to take your case to trial if it means getting what you deserve.
Call our office today to schedule a consultation.