After an injury, victims can obtain compensation from the individual, entity or agency responsible for the damage. Cases can settle outside of court if an insurer or defendant is both willing to accept responsibility for the injury and is willing to make a reasonable settlement offer to the victim. If no agreement is reached between the victim and the responsible party, the victim may sue and the case will proceed to court.
Determining Factors in an Injury Case Going to Court
There are a number of potential reasons why personal injury cases go to trial instead of settling. Cases may go to trial if:
- The defendant or insurer does not believe that a jury will find them liable. Insurers and defendants offer settlements in order to avoid the risk of large jury awards. If they feel confident the victim can’t prove his or her case, they have no incentive to settle. This is especially true in situations where many others have suffered a similar type of harm and the defendant feels it would be bad precedent to settle a claim.
- The defendant or insurer offers an inadequate settlement and the plaintiff believes more can be obtained from a jury. Sometimes, a defendant or an insurer who doesn’t believe the plaintiff will win will offer a small settlement to make what they perceive is a “nuisance” lawsuit go away. In other cases, the defendant may try to force a victim into settling for less than the case is actually worth because they know the victim needs the money or because they think the injured party won’t fight for full compensation. There are funding programs an injured victim can use to obtain the money needed to pay bills until a court case is resolved and an attorney can help injured victims understand what a case is worth. Don’t let the insurance company or defendant force you to accept less than you need to cover your losses.
- A plaintiff wants his/her day in court and a finding of liability. If a person or a company did something to hurt you, you may want a finding of guilt by a jury and you may believe that a jury will be generous with a damage award or even punitive damages. While personal injury cases are primarily about getting full and fair compensation for losses and damages, if you want your day in court, you deserve to have it.
Settling can ensure you are awarded at least some compensation and it can be less stressful since you avoid a potentially protracted trial. However, there are times when you may be able to obtain much more money by presenting your evidence in court to a sympathetic jury.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics, for example, indicates that certain types of case categories have seen a marked increase in median jury awards in recent years. The median award for product liability cases was five times higher in 2005 than it was in 1992 and the median jury award for malpractice cases more than doubled between 1992 and 2005.
Whether you should sue or should settle a personal injury case is going to vary depending upon your injuries, the offer made by the defendant and your willingness to go to court. One of our Las Vegas attorneys can advise you on your options, assist in settlement negotiations or represent you in a courtroom trial.