Settlement vs. Verdict? 5 Important Factors to Consider for a Personal Injury Case
Personal injury attorneys are often asked why they should settle their case instead of going to trial and taking a verdict. The general answer is that a settlement is always the better option over taking a verdict. However, a settlement is not always possible which requires taking a jury verdict.
A settlement is usually paid by the defendant’s insurance company that is contractually responsible for defending the case and paying any award. The insurance company will only be responsible for the policy limits of the insurance taken out by the defendant.
The major benefit of settling the personal injury case is there will be no further gambling on whether you will receive an award. A settlement is a guaranteed win, meaning there will be no appeals, no defense verdict, and no chance of losing.
As most personal injury attorneys understand, going to trial has significant risks, and the biggest one is losing and getting nothing. If an offer to settle was made, another risk of proceeding to trial is getting a verdict lower than the amount offered by the defendant to settle the case.
Even if a personal injury case is won at trial, there is a chance the trial judge will dismiss the case and override the decision of the jury. The trial judge has legal discretion to do this depending upon the facts and law. Even if the trial judge does not dismiss the case after a verdict, there is a chance that an appellate court will dismiss the case if the defendant appeals.
Also, if the verdict is deemed too high in light of the injuries, either the trial judge or the appellate court can lower the jury verdict award. However, a settlement removes all of these potential risks.
The other advantage of a settlement is there will be no further waiting. Waiting for a trial date can take years. With a settlement you will have your money within about 21 days from completion of the signed settlement documents, as required by statutory law CPLR 5003-a. When the settlement is with a municipality, the defendant is entitled to three months to pay.
When should you take a verdict instead? When there is no settlement offer made or appears unfair. Then, you have no choice but to take a verdict. There is no gambling since nothing of significance is offered. But if there is a settlement offer made, the following factors will be considered:
1. What is the amount of insurance coverage?
If there is only $50,000 available insurance coverage, then that is all the insurance company will pay even if your injuries are worth five times more.
2. Any significant assets of the defendant?
If the value of the personal injury case is much higher than the available insurance coverage, it may be warranted to investigate whether the defendant has personal assets to satisfy the balance of the available insurance coverage. Unfortunately, a defendant having significant assets is usually the rare exception.
3. What is the value of the injuries?
There is no book about what the value for pain and suffering is for each body part. Instead, experience in evaluating cases based upon past trials and settlements, as well as reviewing decisions in other similar cases provides the guidance for personal injury attorneys to place an appropriate value of a case.
4. What is the likelihood of winning?
A hit in the rear for a car accident will usually mean a high chance of winning. A construction worker falling off a ladder or scaffold that collapsed also has a high chance of winning. On the other hand, slip and fall accidents are usually more difficult to prove. BBNR are skilled personal injury attorneys who understand the likelihood of winning a case from decades of experience.
5. What is the potential fault of the plaintiff?
Even if the jury decides the defendant was at fault, a jury can also decide that the injured plaintiff was some percentage at fault for the accident. If the jury finds the plaintiff was 50% at fault, then the damages award will be reduced by fifty percent.
If you were injured in an accident, call BBNR, Personal Injury Attorneys who have been helping injured accident victims for over 40 years. There is no fee unless we win, and the consultation is free. Call us now at 212-808-0448.