When a resident of New Jersey or Pennsylvania is accidentally injured through the reckless, negligent, or intentional acts of another, the injury victim may be entitled to compensation damages for their losses. Depending on the unique details and circumstances of the case, the victim may be able to recover compensation for medical bills, lost earnings, diminished earning capacity, ongoing medical care, pain and suffering, loss of consortium (marriage), loss of enjoyment of life, and other types of harm. However, there are two vastly different paths a case can take: a negotiated settlement agreement or a jury trial where a verdict is awarded. In this article, Philadelphia auto accident attorney Brent Wieand discusses some of the factors to think about when considering a legal strategy for recovering injury compensation.
What is the Difference Between a Settlement and a Jury Award?
There are many different circumstances that can give rise to a personal injury case, such as:
- Automobile accidents
- Using a defective product
- Being a victim of medical malpractice
- Being a victim of nursing home abuse
- Having a slip and fall accident
- Having a workplace accident
Whatever the underlying basis for the claim may be, the injured party’s main task is to prove that the other party acted with negligence (carelessness), recklessness (disregard for known risks), or possibly even malice. If the injured party can prove this by presenting clear and convincing evidence, he or she may be able to get compensated – potentially without ever going to trial.
In fact, most personal injury cases – as many as 96%, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics – do not go to trial. Instead, the overwhelming majority are resolved via negotiations that take place outside of court after the injury victim, called the claimant, makes a personal injury claim. When a claimant files a claim with their own insurance company, it is called a first-party claim. When a claimant files a claim with another person’s insurance company – for example, after sustaining serious car accident injuries – it is called a third-party claim.
A skilled personal injury attorney will negotiate aggressively and persistently after a claim has been filed – a process which begins with the claimant’s demand packet – making every effort to obtain a reasonable settlement offer from the other party. If a settlement agreement can be reached, the claimant is compensated, and it is no longer necessary to go to trial.
In the event that a claim cannot be amicably settled, the case will be tried in court. If a trial does occur, and the plaintiff is victorious, the verdict reached by the jury – the amount of compensation – is called an “award.” (For example, “The jury awarded the plaintiff $100,000.”)
What Are the Advantages of Settling Your Personal Injury Case Instead of Going to Trial?
Settling, though far more common, is not necessarily “better” than going to trial. That being said, it is often preferable to settle due to the following reasons:
- Settlement negotiations are usually faster than trials. Even with demands, offers, counter-demands, and counter-offers, most settlement negotiations wrap up in a period of weeks or months. By comparison, trials can take years while the process of “discovery” (obtaining documents and information) unfolds.
- Settlement negotiations are more affordable than trials. Trials involve a host of costs and fees, such as experts, depositions, court costs and filing fees. The costs to go to trial are quite substantial and are generally deducted from a claimant’s award at trial.
- Settlement negotiations are more private. Trials are matters of public record, and during the trial itself, you (and the defendant) will both undergo tough questioning and cross-examination. For most people, this is a totally alien and nerve-wracking experience. Settlement negotiations are not conducted in public, which is a major benefit for people who are concerned about maintaining their privacy, particularly since your medical records are likely to be scrutinized intensely.
- Settlement negotiations don’t involve a jury. The outcome of your court case will ultimately rest in the hands of a fallible jury, which makes trials unpredictable. Settlement negotiations are conducted between lawyers or with the assistance of a mediator, so while the outcome is never certain, there is less risk involved.
While they do have some drawbacks, personal injury trials are sometimes necessary and appropriate. A committed personal injury attorney will be willing and able to go to trial if that is what truly serves the client’s best interests in that particular case.
Review Your Accident Claim with an Experienced Injury Attorney in Pennsylvania
Brent Wieand takes a personal and strategy-oriented approach to every case and claim he handles on behalf of injury victims. He will take the time to sit down and discuss with you, in clear, honest language, all of the important details in your case. He will answer your questions, protect your legal rights, and talk with you about the various paths your legal matter could take as it progresses. If you or a family member got hurt in an accident in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, call Brent at (800) 481-5206 to talk about your personal injury claim in a free, friendly, and completely confidential legal consultation today.
*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes and is not legal advice. The Wieand Law Firm, LLC is based in Philadelphia, PA, and proud to serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.*