Understanding Settlement vs. Trial in Car Accident Cases.

Settlement vs. Trial in Car Accident Cases

Some misconceptions exist about hiring an attorney to handle a car accident claim. Often, people wait to seek help from an experienced San Antonio car accident attorney until they believe they have exhausted their other options and a trial is inevitable. However, a knowledgeable attorney can guide you through the insurance claims process and pursue a settlement on your behalf. An insurance company is more likely to make its best settlement offer to your attorney to avoid going to court.

At The Law Offices of Troy A. Brookover, we want to help you understand the difference between settlements and trials in San Antonio car accident cases. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each avenue can help you prepare and consider which option is right for you.

Differences Between Settlement and Trial in Car Accident Cases

Following a car accident, you may hear terms such as claim, case, offer, settlement, verdict, and trial used in connection with your situation. What does it all mean?

In most accident cases, you file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company demanding compensation to cover your medical expenses and other losses from the accident. Filing an insurance claim may lead to a settlement offer. When making a settlement offer, the insurance company agrees that it will pay you a certain amount of money to resolve your claim. In exchange for the money, the injured individual typically agrees to release the insurance company from further liability related to the accident.

If the insurance company refuses to agree to a reasonable settlement, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit to pursue fair compensation for your financial losses. A trial can occur when you file a personal injury lawsuit against an insurance company or an at-fault individual. Your attorney prepares your case for trial, and that case gets presented to a judge or jury. The court then makes the final determination of what constitutes a fair outcome.

Benefits of Out-of-Court Settlements

One of the big advantages of settling out-of-court is that the case may be resolved more quickly. You have access to the money you need more quickly if a settlement is reached. Typically, you can negotiate a settlement with an insurer in far less time than it takes to schedule a trial on the court calendar. Negotiating a settlement can resolve your claim in a matter of months. Some cases settle just as the case is ready to go to trial.

Another benefit of agreeing to a settlement is that your private details remain private. All court verdicts are a matter of public record. The details of settlements can be kept private.

Finally, resolving a claim by accepting a settlement avoids the risk and uncertainty of a trial outcome.

Disadvantages of Out-of-Court Settlements

One of the most significant disadvantages of an out-of-court settlement is that the amount may be less than you might obtain through a personal injury lawsuit. If you face life-altering injuries that require extensive medical care into the future, an out-of-court settlement may not provide the money you need.

Another potential drawback is the insurer’s use of delay tactics. You have a limited amount of time to file a personal injury lawsuit. An insurer could attempt to stall negotiations hoping to run out the clock of pursuing litigation and leaving you with no choice but to accept a settlement offer.

Settlements are permanent. Once you accept an offer to settle out-of-court, you give up the right to pursue additional compensation for your losses later if your medical condition takes a turn for the worse.  

Advantages of Taking Your Case to Trial

A jury verdict may net you more than a pre-trial settlement. Many insurance companies negotiate within the limits of the policyholder’s insurance coverage. Jury verdicts are not bound by insurance coverage limits, meaning you may have a better chance of recovering maximum compensation by taking your case to trial.

Another potential advantage of going to trial is having your case evaluated by a neutral third party. A jury must evaluate the merits of a case based on the evidence provided. 

In court, you may be eligible to seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages do not cover your financial losses. Instead, punitive damages are a financial punishment for the at-fault party that is awarded in cases involving gross negligence or misconduct. Although rare, an attorney can evaluate your case to determine the potential of seeking punitive damages. 

Disadvantages of Going to Court

If you take your case to trial, you must be prepared for a lengthy process. Going to court can be time-consuming. It takes extensive work to prepare for trial. Courts often have backlogs of cases. It may take a year or longer to get a personal injury case scheduled to be heard.

Individuals filing a personal injury lawsuit should be aware that court proceedings are a matter of public record. The details of your case may be made public. If you have privacy concerns, a trial may put you at a disadvantage.

Finally, you must consider the cost and risk of taking your case to trial. Preparing a court case for trial takes time and resources. Even with the help of an experienced attorney, you don’t have any guarantee of winning your case.  

What Percentage of Car Accident Cases Go to Trial?

One study published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that although numerous personal injury lawsuits involve car accidents, only about three percent of those cases go to trial. The time, cost, and resources it takes to bring a case to court likely result in most cases being settled out-of-court. 

How Often Do Car Accident Cases Go to Court?

Although many personal injury lawsuits are filed following car accidents, most cases never get to court. The time-consuming process of going to trial means that most clients find it preferable to settle their claims out-of-court. 

Get Legal Help from Our Experienced San Antonio Car Accident Attorneys

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the car accident court process? Do you need more help deciding whether a settlement or trial is best for your circumstances? The San Antonio car accident attorney at The Law Offices of Troy A. Brookover can help.

Call us at (210) 226-2000 for a free case evaluation and let our team review your situation and help you sort through your legal options. Our case results speak for themselves.

Troy Brookover was born and raised in San Antonio. He established the Law Offices of Troy A. Brookover so that he could make a difference in the community and help accident victims recover compensation to get back on their feet after being injured by someone else’s negligence. He brings more than 30 years of legal experience to the table, which he leverages in every case.