Did you know that only 4-5% of personal injury lawsuits in the United States ever make it to trial? That means up to 96% of them resolve in some sort of settlement, which could be either a total dismissal of the case or some mutual settlement agreement. So, why does this happen?
Settlements and Uncertainty
If you’ve ever been in an argument, you know how it feels to believe wholeheartedly that you are right, yet the person that you’re arguing with has the same ferocious conviction in the truth of their beliefs. So you reach an impasse. Either you agree to disagree, or your argument turns into a verbal fight, flinging attacks at each other. After you’ve been in enough arguments, you know to avoid the latter outcome.
In personal injury law, it’s much the same story. A plaintiff feels like they’ve been wronged, so they file a lawsuit. A defendant feels like they’ve done no wrong, or that the plaintiff has wronged them. Both sides hire an attorney, someone much more knowledgeable in personal injury law than themselves, to mediate the discussion. Then discussions begin.
The plaintiff will want to settle out of court for a couple reasons. First, because of the uncertainty of what a jury will find. Though the plaintiff might be absolutely convinced that they are right, a jury could see it differently. Second, the stress of a trial can weigh on anybody. Luckily though, the threat of going to trial is a tool that the plaintiff can leverage in favor of a settlement.
There is more of a reason to avoid trial for a defendant. They might be equally convinced that their opposition is incorrect, but given the same uncertainty of a jury, coupled with the fact that they would be a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit, spells out too much risk. Being a defendant can look bad to the general public, and if they lose, they will likely owe even more money than in atypical settlement scenario.
The personal injury attorney is there to mediate the conflict so that it doesn’t go too far. Both sides have something to lose by going to trial, and both have something to gain by settling. This is why the vast majority of these cases are settled out of court.