When you’ve sustained an injury due to another person’s negligence, you have the option of filing a personal injury claim against the responsible party. Not only does this ensure they will be held liable for their actions, but it also allows you (the injured party) to recover compensation for the damages that resulted from the accident.
A personal injury lawsuit may be resolved in one of two ways: through a settlement or by going to trial. There are pros and cons to each of these, and whether or not you should settle or take the case to trial simply depends on the circumstances surrounding your case. The Northwest LA personal injury lawyers at Gordon & Gordon Law Firm have handled all kinds of personal injury cases, and they know when to encourage their client to settle versus when to pursue a trial by jury. Ultimately, however, the choice is up to you. Below, we’ll discuss the differences between settlements and trial awards as well as the pros and cons of each.
To speak with a personal injury attorney at Gordon & Gordon, or to schedule a free consultation regarding your case, give us a call at (318) 716-HELP or complete our online intake form to get started.
Types of Compensation in a Personal Injury Case
Personal injury claims are intended to compensate a victim for damages resulting from their preventable injuries. This includes both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to things like medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and other easily calculable expenses. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are meant to compensate victims for more abstract losses, such as pain and suffering, mental distress, loss of consortium, and more.
In cases of extreme or “gross” negligence, punitive damages may also be available. This is strictly a means to punish the defendant for their apparent disregard of human life.
Personal injury victims may receive their money either through a settlement agreement or by recovering an award via jury trial.
What’s The Difference Between a Settlement and an Award?
Both settlements and court awards act as a formal resolution to a personal injury claim. The difference is how and when the involved parties reach that resolution. A settlement can be reached soon after the accident’s occurrence and be a quicker means to obtain compensation. This occurs when the plaintiff (the injured person) and the defendant (the negligent person) agree on a reasonable amount of compensation to be paid by the defendant’s insurance company to cover the plaintiff’s damages. Settlements do not require either party to appear before a court and simply involve negotiations between both party’s legal teams.
If the defendant and plaintiff cannot agree on settlement terms, the case will progress to a personal injury trial. When this happens, both sides will appear before a judge and a jury to argue their claims. If the court sides with the plaintiff, the defendant’s insurance company must pay them the exact amount determined by the jury. If, however, the jury does not find the defendant to be responsible for the damages, the plaintiff may very well walk away with nothing.
How Does an Out-of-Court Settlement Work?
The settlement process begins with the plaintiff’s attorney writing and issuing a personal injury demand letter to the negligent defendant. This demand letter essentially lets the other party know that you are seeking damages for the injuries (and their resulting expenses) caused by their negligent actions. The letter should include any and all damages that resulted from the injuries, such as medical expenses (current and future treatment, diagnostic tests, pain medication costs, physical therapy, hospital inpatient services, etc.), property damage, and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and mental distress. It should also include the presentation of facts and evidence (wage verification, police reports, medical bills, etc.).
Once sent to the opposing party, it typically takes the insurance company anywhere from 20-60 days to respond. If they accept the demand letter, you can proceed to settlement negotiations and (hopefully) obtain a fair settlement amount.
Pros and Cons of Accepting a Settlement
The vast majority of personal injury cases are resolved outside of court through settlement negotiations. Whether or not a case should be settled depends entirely on the specific case at hand. The pros of settling your case include:
- Significantly reduced attorney fees
- Avoiding trial (which can be a long and grueling process)
- Receiving compensation in a timely manner
- Settlement offer is up to the involved parties and not an outside third party
- Less stressful and complicated
- Legal matters remain private
Meanwhile, the cons of accepting a personal injury settlement include:
- You forfeit the right to pursue any further damages for the same claim
- You may receive less money from a settlement than you would a court award
Pros and Cons of Going to Trial
Though far less claims make it all the way to a personal injury trial, it may be in the plaintiff’s best interest for a few reasons. For example, if the case is brought before a trial court rather than resolved through a settlement offer, you may be able to obtain significantly more money and have the opportunity to pursue punitive damages. What’s more, personal injury trials are public record, meaning the defendant will be publicly held accountable for their actions.
On the other hand, if you prefer that your case stays out of the public eye, the public records from a trial may be considered a con. Trials also take far longer and can last for years before a plaintiff is able to recover damages. Attorney fees are also higher when a case is taken to trial, and plaintiffs stand the risk of walking away empty-handed if the jury sides with the defendant. Though an unwanted verdict can be appealed in some cases, the appeal process will only drag the case on for longer and can be even more complex than the initial litigation process.
Can You Get More Money if You Take Your Personal Injury Case To Trial?
The short answer is yes. By taking their personal injury lawsuit to trial, an injury victim has the opportunity of obtaining a higher payout than what the insurance company initially offered through settlement negotiations. However, this is only if the plaintiff wins their case. Taking your case to trial can be quite a gamble, because on the one hand, you may receive more money than you would by settling, but on the other, you may also have the misfortune of walking away with nothing at all.
As you can see, the stakes are high when it comes to deciding whether to settle or pursue your claim in court. The best thing you can do in this situation is to equip the help of an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you weigh the pros and cons of your unique case.
To Learn More, Call the Top Northwest Louisiana Personal Injury Lawyers at Gordon & Gordon Today
There are benefits and disadvantages that come with both accepting settlement offers and taking the case to trial. Obtaining the legal aid of a skilled Shreveport personal injury lawyer can help you decide which option is right for you. Your lawyer will give you their professional opinion regarding the best course of action in your case and further explain the pros and cons of each possibility.
At Gordon & Gordon Law Firm, our attorneys have helped clients all over the Ark-La-Tex obtain fair settlements and large trial awards. Their decades of experience in handling personal injury claims in the area allow them to help you make informed decisions regarding your case. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to the fault of another, call our top Bossier City, Mansfield, and Shreveport personal injury lawyers at Gordon & Gordon at 318-716-HELP today to schedule a free consultation concerning your insurance claim.
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