Will my personal injury case go to trial?
New clients often ask if their personal injury case is likely to go to trial. They worry about long days on the witness stand and tough questions from the opposing attorney. Many times they worry about trial before their case even begins.
The vast majority of personal injury cases don’t end up going to trial. Only a very small percentage of cases make it to opening statements. Most cases resolve because the parties are able to reach a settlement that they both agree on in order to resolve the case.
A case is more likely to go to trial if the parties can’t agree on the basic facts. That is, if you don’t agree on how you received your injuries or who acted negligently, it’s more likely that you’re going to need a jury to resolve the issue. When the parties generally agree on what happened in the case and how you got hurt, it becomes a simple question of deciding on fair compensation.
There are a few things that your personal injury lawyer can do to help you build your case and show the other side that they’re responsible for your injuries. Many times, working to build a strong case helps the other side realize that you have a case that’s likely to win at trial. When your lawyer is busy with depositions, interrogatories, subpoenas and other trial preparation, this work might actually help you stay out of court.
Discovery is a process that lets the parties gather information about the case in order to narrow the issues for trial. When all of the facts are out on the table, both sides can look at the reality of the case. The discovery process helps you and the other party form realistic expectations about the merits of your case. When it’s fairly obvious that you have a strong case, and you’re likely to succeed, the other side is often willing to pay you a fair amount.
Looking for something unique or unusual
When a case is in the small minority of cases that end up going to trial, there’s usually something unique or unusual about the case that makes it end up in trial. Perhaps there are diverging opinions as to the cause of the injuries. Perhaps it’s a close call as to whether the other side is responsible for your losses. Most of the time, a case doesn’t end up going to trial unless there’s a unique trait that makes it more questionable than most. Your personal injury attorneys can evaluate your case to see if it’s one of the few that might end up in trial.
You have some control over your fate
In many cases, it’s up to you to decide if you want to take the case to trial. If you receive a settlement offer from the other side, you get to decide if you want to accept it. If you accept it, it becomes the judgment in the case, and the case ends. If you reject it, the case continues on to trial. Knowing that you have some say in the resolution of your case can take some of the stress out of wondering what’s going to happen.
You might also take advantage of a process called mediation. Mediation is a process that many litigants use to resolve the case outside of the courtroom. A trained mediator leads the session. You and your personal injury lawyers attend as well as the other side and their lawyer. The mediator helps you talk about the case and brainstorm a resolution that works for both of you.
While it might seem impossible from your vantage point to resolve the case, the reality is that most cases find a way to resolve short of trial. Your attorney can work with you to reach the best possible resolution in your case. Focus on working with your attorney to build your case, and then you can work together to decide the best course of action.