A very good number of personal injury cases do not eventually get to trial and most are just simply settled out of court. This is due to the fact that the hassle involved in a settlement is much less than that involved when a case goes to trial. Also, it has fewer risks and is less costly.
It is not uncommon to see a personal injury case settle before it has a chance to see a courtroom, and the advantages of doing this are discussed below.
1.) A TRIAL CAN BE EXPENSIVE WHILE A SETTLEMENT, ON THE OTHER HAND, IS NOT NECESSARILY SO
The plaintiff, a.k.a. the person who has been injured in an accident due to the negligent behavior of another person will usually arrive at a payment arrangement with the attorney beforehand. Usually, it goes along the lines of 33% getting paid to the lawyer if a settlement occurs before the trial while that number goes up to 40% of the compensation if the case does go to trial.
The defendant also will need to get a lawyer, who will usually get paid per hour. What this means is that the trial is both, time-consuming and will result in loss of more money than if a settlement is reached. There is also the issue of expert witnesses, cost of travel and other things which can increase the expenses that come out of the pocket of the defendant and plaintiff.
It is important to note that time of settlement determines just how costly the entire process of litigation will be for both parties involved. A longer time equals more expenses. There are some attorneys who choose to handle the other expenses themselves, but what you must know is that those expenses will eventually be included in what the lawyer gets at the end of the day. If the proof of negligence is crystal clear from the beginning, then the wise thing to do in that case would be to just settle reasonably.
In an insurance company is sponsoring the attorney being used by the defendant, then different rules may apply. These companies are technically not allowed to settle early because they want to save costs on litigation. If, however, the plaintiff is willing to settle and makes an offer which is reasonable, the offer cannot be rejected by the defendant simply because he or she is not handling the costs themselves.
2.) A TRIAL CAN BE TRULY STRESSFUL
Usually, the average case may not spend more than a couple of days in court but even at that, the stress levels are usually very high during those few days. Examinations and cross-examinations can prove to be physically and emotionally tasking to all parties involved. Also, the time it takes before the trial date is usually full of intense stressful activities for both parties as well as the lawyers. Building a case is not easy and it's all hands on deck if success and a favorable verdict are to be achieved.
In the case of a settlement, once both parties are done with negotiations, and agree on a sum, the defendant (usually) then goes ahead and pays the plaintiff for damages and the issue is put to a close there and then.
3.) LIABILITY AND DAMAGES ARE NOT VERY PREDICTABLE IN A TRIAL
Yes, in a trial, you can potentially be awarded much more than what the defendant had initially intended to settle you with, by the jury, but that is not always the case. There are so many things that come to play. The judge might not allow some key evidence to be admitted due to some reasons, the eyewitnesses brought forward may be deemed unreliable, and there might be some notable holes in the plaintiff's case and so on. What you expect before a trial may not be what happens at the end of the day. These days, surprises are at a minimum, but it is not a perfect system.
Also, the jury has to decide just how much compensation the plaintiff deserves. They may decide, after listening to the case and examining all the facts and it may turn out that the amount is much lower than what was being offered for settlement. When you settle out of court, you negotiate on how much you are willing to collect and once you are satisfied, you can get your compensation for damages.
Settling out of court is encouraged by a good number of states and to this effect, in some of these states, if the amount gotten at trial is lower than what was being offered for settlement, then the plaintiff is required to pay the defendant's lawyer's fees.