When Do Personal Injury Cases Go to Trial?
Most people imagine major courtroom trials with a judge and jurors when they picture a personal injury case. While a trial is a possibility, it is not a probability. The vast majority of Virginia’s personal injury claims never see the inside of a courtroom. They successfully settle during the pre-trial negotiation stage instead. If you are curious as to whether your personal injury case will go to trial, ask yourself if your case involves any of the challenges that most often lead to a day in court.
If the other side of your case does not agree that it caused your accident and personal injury, you may have a disputed claim. Liability disputes increase the chances of a case going to trial, as a settlement relies upon both sides agreeing with each other. Settlements are achieved by both sides communicating, compromising and agreeing to an amount of money that will resolve the issue. If both sides cannot agree as to who is responsible for causing the accident, the case may end up in front of a judge or jury. A jury will hear both sides of the case and determine fault based on the facts and evidence presented.
Failed Settlement Negotiations
Some personal injury cases go to trial in Virginia because while both sides agree about fault, they disagree about the value of the claim. A defendant’s insurance company will often try to limit its financial liability and save its investors money by undervaluing a claimant’s losses. While an experienced personal injury lawyer can often convince the insurance company to offer a fair amount and successfully settle the case, some insurance companies refuse to increase their offers.
If negotiations stall and fail to end in a successful settlement agreement, the plaintiff’s attorney may have no choice but to take the case to court. This is most common in cases involving catastrophic or permanently disabling injuries. These cases are often worth much more than an insurance company offers during settlement negotiations. If your lawyer believes you deserve more for a serious injury, he or she may take your case to trial to fight for maximum compensation.
Insurance Bad Faith
Sometimes, insurance companies intentionally mistreat claimants and refuse to offer fair settlements. This is called insurance bad faith. It happens when an insurance company does not treat a claim or client in a good faith attempt to resolve the case. Instead, the insurance company handles the case dishonestly or unfairly to try to save money. If an insurance company is acting in bad faith during your case, it may end up in court. Taking the insurance company to trial can force it to pay the full value of your injuries and losses. Your lawyer may also wish to bring a bad-faith lawsuit against the insurance company for additional compensation for your trouble and inconvenience.
A Personal Injury Trial Is Rare in Virginia
While a personal injury case can to go all the way to trial in Virginia, this is uncommon. Most defendants prefer to avoid the costs and liability risks of a trial by agreeing to settle the claim privately with the plaintiff. A settlement will generally be smaller than the amount a defendant might have to pay in a jury verdict. Settling may, therefore, control the risks of the case for the defendant.
On the plaintiff’s side, a settlement can be more attractive because it is faster and less costly than a personal injury trial. It also guarantees a positive outcome, whereas a trial comes with the risk of recovering nothing for damages. A settlement can also keep the injury claim out of the public eye. Settlements are private, while trials are part of public record. Work with a Richmond personal injury lawyer to improve your chances of achieving a successful settlement for your personal injury case.