If you are seeking compensation for an injury caused by a negligent party, in most cases the other party will try to offer you a settlement to avoid having to go to court. Sometimes the offer matches your monetary request for reparations and other settlement terms, but sometimes it does not.
What do you do it the settlement offered does not match your requests? Should you accept the offer, or should you pursue additional compensation by taking your case to court?
Navigating questions such as these can be very complicated. And it is especially difficult to know what to do when your emotions about the injury and possible lasting effects are affecting your judgment.
Every case is unique, so because of that you should seek legal counsel before you decide to settle or go to court. Our goal in this blog is to help you feel empowered to make the right decision by helping you understand the pros and cons of both settling your case and going to court.
Reasons to Settle Out of Court
In a settlement agreement, one party offers to end the dispute by meeting certain terms from the other party, such as paying for damages or negligence. If both parties can agree to the settlement, they can avoid going to court. In fact, most lawsuits are settled out of court. This makes sense because settling out of court does have many benefits for both of the parties involved:
- Guaranteed compensation. The upside to settling a case is you know exactly what you will receive. You are not relying on a judge or jury to side with you and award you what you want. The terms of a settlement are clear in the documentation, and your lawyer can look over the paperwork before you sign to ensure everything is in order.
- Saves you time. Personal injury settlements can drag on for long periods of time. If you decide to go to court, you could delay compensation longer. And sometimes even if you win, the appeals process can prevent you from receiving your restitution. But, when you settle, you typically receive your payment from the other party much quicker.
- Maintain your privacy. When you go to court, the details of your case become public record. Anyone can request to see documentation. Details of cases settled out of court normally remain private, and some settlements even contain confidentiality agreements protecting the case from being discussed.
- Prevent any appeals. Another positive of a settlement is their finality. Once an agreement is made in a settlement, you sign the related paperwork, and then the dispute is over. With a court case, even if you win, the other party can appeal the case to higher courts. Appeals can sometimes decrease the amount of damages you will receive, or they can even overturn the result entirely.
- Avoid undue stress. Taking your case to trial can be extremely stressful. You may worry about having to testify on the stand, describing details of the case and facing cross-examination by another attorney – especially when the case is highly personal. Often settling your case out of court can eliminate worries such as these.
Reasons to Consider Going to Court
In some situations, going to court is better than agreeing to a final settlement. The guidelines below do not apply in every circumstance, so you should only use these for a basic understanding of why going to court might be a good choice for you:
- Settlement negotiations break down. Rarely do parties involved in a personal injury dispute agree to the very first settlement offer. Instead, there is negotiation of terms until an agreement is reached and approved by both sides. Sometimes however, negotiations fail to produce an acceptable settlement agreement. If you feel the other party is not fairly negotiating or compromising, then going to court could give you a better chance for a fair settlement.
- You are suing an individual. Personal injury lawsuits often involve seeking damages from a group or company, for example, an employer or an insurance company. If you are suing an individual, that person’s assets and resources are normally smaller than that of a business. With fewer resources and assets, an individual is less likely to appeal a court decision than a company would be.
- When you want to hold out for more damages. When negotiating a settlement, the other party may offer multiple payment options that do not match what you are thinking is fair. If this is the case, you can choose to take the case to trial and hope a judge or jury will force them to pay you a higher amount. You should be careful using this tactic, because going to court does not guarantee you will receive compensation. It is possible the other party could win the case and you could be left with nothing and/or causing you to spend time and money appealing the ruling.
When you are seeking compensation of an injury, you should hire an attorney to help you decide whether settling or taking your case to court is the best option for you. Ultimately, the decision will be yours, but having an experience attorney providing you guidance can help you make the right decision for you. If you have been injured and are considering taking a settlement, we suggest you call the attorneys at Hardee, Massey & Blodgett before signing any final documents.