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Understanding the Difference Between Settlement and Trial in Personal Injury Cases

By Greg Kohn

When pursuing a personal injury claim, it’s essential to understand the distinction between settlement and trial. These are two primary paths to resolve a personal injury case, each with its own advantages and considerations. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of settlement and trial, you can make informed decisions about the best approach for your situation.

In this article, our New Jersey personal injury attorneys explore the key differences between settlement and trial in personal injury cases, empowering you to navigate the legal process with confidence.

Settlement in Personal Injury Cases

Settlement is a voluntary agreement reached between the injured party (plaintiff) and the party allegedly responsible for the injury (defendant) or their insurance company. Here are some important aspects of settlement:

  • Benefits of settlement: Settling a personal injury case can offer several advantages. It tends to be a faster and more cost-effective process compared to a trial. Settlement also allows the parties to maintain control over the outcome and potentially avoid the uncertainties and risks associated with a trial.
  • Factors influencing settlement: Several factors influence the settlement negotiation process. These include liability (the extent to which the defendant is deemed responsible for the injury), the severity of damages, the availability of insurance coverage, and the strength of the evidence supporting the plaintiff’s claim.

Trial in Personal Injury Cases

A trial is a formal legal proceeding that takes place in court. Here’s an overview of the trial process in personal injury cases:

  • Pre-Trial Proceedings: The pre-trial phase involves various steps, such as filing a complaint, conducting discovery (gathering evidence), and engaging in settlement negotiations. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case proceeds to trial.
  • Presentation of Evidence: During the trial, both parties present their arguments, evidence, and witness testimonies to support their positions. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving the defendant’s liability and the extent of their damages.
  • Jury Deliberation: In many personal injury trials, a jury evaluates the evidence presented and determines liability and damages. However, in some cases, the trial may be conducted before a judge without a jury.

Key Differences between Settlement and Trial

Understanding the distinctions between settlement and trial is crucial. Here are some key differences:

  • Resolution process: Settlement is a negotiation process where parties work toward a mutually acceptable agreement. In contrast, trial involves presenting arguments and evidence to a judge or jury, who then make a decision.
  • Control over outcomes: Settlement provides more control over the final outcome, as both parties have the opportunity to negotiate and reach a resolution. In a trial, the decision is ultimately in the hands of the judge or jury.
  • Finality of decisions: Settlement generally results in a final resolution, avoiding the possibility of appeals. In contrast, trial decisions may be subject to appeal, leading to additional time, expenses, and uncertainties.

Factors to Consider in Choosing Settlement or Trial

When deciding whether to pursue settlement or trial, several factors should be considered:

  • Strength of the case: Assess the strength of your case, including the evidence, witness testimonies, and legal arguments. Discuss this with an experienced personal injury attorney who can provide a realistic evaluation.
  • Potential compensation: Consider the potential compensation offered through settlement negotiations compared to what you might receive through a trial. Evaluate the risks and benefits of each option.
  • Time constraints: Take into account your personal circumstances, including any time constraints or financial needs that may influence your decision.
  • Personal preferences: Consider your own preferences and comfort level with the negotiation process, as well as the potential stress and uncertainty associated with a trial.

If You’ve Been Injured, You Don’t Have to Do This Alone

Understanding the difference between settlement and trial in personal injury cases is essential for making informed decisions about your claim. While settlement offers efficiency, control, and potential cost savings, a trial provides the opportunity for a legal decision and potentially higher compensation. Consulting with a skilled personal injury attorney is crucial in navigating this process, as they can assess the specific circumstances of your case, guide you through settlement negotiations or trials, and advocate for your best interests. Remember, the goal is to achieve fair compensation for your injuries, and choosing the right path depends on a thorough understanding of the options available to you. Contact us today for a free consult.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.