Only about 1 out of every 20 personal injury cases ever go trial—and there are some really good reasons this is so. If you're about to talk to an attorney about a personal injury lawsuit, learn why pretrial negotiation skills may matter more than how many successful trials they've had in court.
There can be diminishing returns on your case the further that you take it.
Personal injury attorneys generally work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they don't get paid unless you receive a settlement either before or after a lawsuit is filed. However, it's often far cheaper to settle a case before the lawsuit is even filed.
When a case is settled prior to the actual filing of the lawsuit, the normal contingency fee is right around 33% of whatever you receive. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement out of court and the lawsuit has to be filed, that fee usually jumps to 40%. The reason for the jump in cost is that your attorney has to put significantly more work into a case once it has been filed with the court. There may be numerous pre-trial case motions regarding evidence and procedure. Things like depositions, which are legal interviews of the parties and witnesses involved that are done under oath, can consume a great deal of the attorney's time.
There are other costs associated with filing the lawsuit and going to court. While your attorney may work on a contingency fee, he or she has the right to bill you separately for other expenses associated with the case. That includes things like photocopy fees, postal fees, the cost of delivery service for legal documents, court costs and other items, all of which can add up to a significant expense.
You can face increasing risks to any favorable outcome.
Another reason to settle out of court, when possible, is that there's more risk to your case in the courtroom than out. A 2008 study indicated that 61% of the time, plaintiffs end up being the loser in court. While juries can be unpredictable, there's every indication that they may favor defendants in general.
In addition, you may have to contend with other issues that could put your case at risk. For example, many personal injury clients have found out that their Facebook and other social media accounts have been monitored for statements or photos that could portray them as money-hungry malingerers. Others have had to contend with private investigators dogging their steps, video cameras in tow, hoping to catch them doing something in an unguarded moment that—at least, on camera—makes them look like they aren't really injured.
Deciding to accept a settlement offer (as long as it is a fair one) brings an end to any uncertainty or stress about what will happen once the case goes to trial.
Filing a lawsuit or going to trial may be your only option if you're injured and the other party's insurance company doesn't want to negotiate or refuses to acknowledge the severity of your injuries. However, keep in mind that most cases come to a conclusion long before they reach the courtroom. When choosing an attorney, discuss how he or she feels about settling out of court and find out what steps he or she usually takes to get a successful result without having to take a case that far unless necessary.
For more information, contact Powers Law or a similar firm.