What Is the Difference Between a Settlement and a Trial in a Personal Injury Claim?

By Peter DePaolis

During your DC personal injury claim, you may hear your lawyer talk about a settlement versus a trial. These are two different legal processes. You do not receive a settlement by going to trial. Rather, they are two ways to potentially resolve your case. The vast majority of personal injury claims resolve via settlements, but some require trials to achieve fair results. Understanding the difference between a settlement and a trial can help you determine which route may be best for your particular claim.

If you’ve reached our site in search of answers to your specific case, contact our office today to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney,

Insurance Settlement vs. Personal Injury Trial

A settlement refers to resolving a claim through the insurance claims process alone. A settlement is an amount of money an insurance provider offers to resolve a dispute with a claimant. An insurance settlement means you, the accident victim, agree not to take the case to court in exchange for a fair sum from the insurance company for your losses. Typically, a settlement will be an amount that falls within the defendant’s insurance policy limits. You have the right to negotiate a settlement offer with an insurance company until you both agree on a fair sum.

A personal injury trial is the next step you may take if settlement negotiations do not work. If your negotiations with the insurance company still fail to result in an amount you or your lawyer believe is fair to make up for your losses, you can take your case to trial. A trial involves a judge and/or jury making the final call rather than negotiations being between you and the insurance claims adjuster alone. Both parties will present their cases before the judge or jury, then wait for the final verdict. You may need to take your case directly to trial if the insurance company denies your claim from the start.

Pros and Cons of Each

Most personal injury claimants prefer settlements over trials. Settlements are faster and cheaper than going to court with a case. However, settlements are not always possible – nor are they always the best option for the client depending on the case. A Fairfax personal injury attorney can help you figure out which route is most appropriate according to your injuries, needs and goals.

  • A trial could end in greater compensation, but results are not guaranteed. Once you put your future in the hands of a judge or jury, there is no going back. If the courts side with the defendant, you will get $0 unless you win an appeal. If you win, on the other hand, you could receive greater compensation than you would have with a settlement.
  • A settlement is private, while a personal injury trial is public knowledge. If you are afraid of damaging your reputation with a lawsuit, a settlement might be best. A settlement is also less work, allowing you to avoid stressful court proceedings.
  • A trial is expensive. Going to trial is more expensive than settling a claim. An injury trial will involve expenses such as filing fees, court costs and the expenses of hiring expert witnesses, which can be steep.
  • A settlement is faster. Most claimants can receive compensation checks within three months of filing an insurance claim if they settle. In contrast, a personal injury trial could take 12 months or years to resolve.

An insurance settlement will generally yield compensation for lost wages, medical bills and property repairs. With a successful trial, on the other hand, you could also receive compensation for pain and suffering, legal fees, punitive damages and more. Yet what you may give up in compensation during a settlement you could gain in the swiftness, ease and control that comes with settling. Each option has different risks and benefits. Discuss your case in more detail with an attorney to figure out which path might be right for you.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.