Personal injury litigation (also called “litigation”) can be fraught with uncertainty. Surprises are possible at any moment, especially during the discovery phase when parties exchange information and attempt to build evidence for trial. Sometimes, an investigator uncovers a key piece of evidence or the plaintiff becomes flustered and says the wrong thing during depositions.
The trial itself is the next step. Witnesses may not appear or buckle under cross-examination, judges can make incorrect evidentiary rulings, and the court can appoint a runaway juror. There is always the option to appeal but an appeals court cannot reverse any trial decision, even if it is wrong. An appeal can cost thousands of dollars and take many years to complete.
Litigation can be expensive, especially in cases involving personal injury. Expert witnesses are very valuable and often need to be used. It can cost a lot to prepare reports, travel time, and testify. In some cases, there will be multiple expert witnesses on one side of a personal injury case. Learn more about expert witnesses in the context a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Personal injury cases can be expensive because they require a lot from an attorney. An attorney can spend thousands of hours reviewing documents, preparing witnesses and arguing motions in court if a case is going to trial. Each side can save significant money on legal fees by reducing the time and effort required to prepare and conduct a trial.
From the filing of a personal injuries complaint (the original document that initiates the lawsuit), to the issuing a verdict, it can take up to a year. Even if the plaintiff wins, it can take a while to get compensation for injuries. An appeal can be filed, which could add a few more years to the process of completing a personal injury case.
For most attorneys, settlement is the best (and sometimes the only) option. This is because they would not be able to effectively represent their clients if all cases went to trial. The workload would be too heavy and many law firms would run out of lawyers to appear in court.
Many law firms representing plaintiffs are also volume-driven. They take on many cases in the hope that most will settle. An attorney can still make a profit, even if the settlement amounts don’t amount to much. Find out how personal injury attorneys get paid.
The vast majority of court proceedings are open to the public. A lot of information previously kept secret will be made public if a personal injury case goes to trial. Many people and organizations involved in litigation prefer not to have the details of their cases made public.
A settlement typically provides some privacy. The plaintiff might want to keep sensitive medical information from being made public. Perhaps a company wants to avoid embarrassing employee behavior or a defective product making the news.
Avoiding Additional Stress
Everyone involved in litigation finds it difficult. Even corporate defendants don’t like it. Corporate officers and employees need to make time to gather evidence, prepare for depositions and talk with the lawyer.
The plaintiff may have to go through the same painful experience over and over during the trial process. The plaintiff might need to appear in court in an emotionally vulnerable position during a trial. There’s also the uncertainty that we mentioned in a few sections. Many plaintiffs will give up the opportunity to increase their damages award in order to avoid stress and get a guaranteed settlement check.