How Do I Know If My Case Will Settle Or End Up In Court?
If you have just started working on your personal injury claim your attorney has probably explained that the best outcome for your case is to negotiate a settlement and avoid any courtroom litigation.
Settlements are faster, simpler, less contentious, and much cheaper than a jury trial or summary judgment from a judge. While no one can really predict what will happen in court, but some claims are much more likely to settle than others. It almost always depends on the facts, the liability, and the evidence.
The Facts are the Facts are the Facts, Of Course.
Your case will go much faster if you and the other party agree on what happened in the case (the facts). If you disagree about what happened, there is a lot more to fight about and you may need a judge or a jury.
For example, imagine an auto-pedestrian crash. Dan was driving along the highway when he struck Patti, who was walking along the road. Patti is suing Dan for damages to cover her medical treatment. Dan hit Patti after all.
However, Dan can argue that Patti was walking in the road. That makes the accident Patti’s fault. Patti argues that she was walking on the shoulder, and that Dan left the roadway to hit her.
This is an issue of fact. Where was Patti walking: on the shoulder or in the roadway? Patti and Dan are going to have to come to a conclusion about this fact before they can decide liability. If they cannot determine where Patti was walking themselves they will have to ask a judge or a jury to determine where Patti was walking, and they will not be able to settle the claim out of court.
Whose Fault Was It Anyway?
The crucial fact in any personal injury claim is who acted negligently or who is at fault for the accident. If fault is obvious, the party at fault is much more likely to settle the claim in order to save time and money. If fault is unclear, both parties will continue to fight to avoid liability. In cases like these, courts are judges are needed to determine who caused the accident.
Let us go back to Dan and Patti. Dan and Patti are arguing about the facts because the facts change who was at fault for the accident. Until someone finds strong evidence of fault, the parties will continue to fight and not to settle.
The other way that fault plays into settlement negotiations is proximate cause. Imagine Patti has inflammation in her internal organs after her accident with Dan. She is suing Dan for compensation for treating this disease. However, Dan is arguing that he is not responsible for the inflammation because Patti suffered from it before the accident, so the auto-pedestrian crash is not the cause of Patti’s injuries, and Dan should not have to compensate her for them.
The parties are arguing about the actual and proximate causes of the injury. Unless there is an undisputed piece of clear evidence pointing to the cause of the inflammation, the parties are going to fight in court and are much less likely to settle.
The Proof is in the Paperwork.
The last key to a winning settlement negotiation is evidence. It does not matter if the other party was at fault for the accident and definitely caused your injuries if you cannot prove it.
Most people are not going to settle a claim out of the goodness of their hearts. Insurance companies and attorneys settle claims when the evidence shows that the Plaintiff is most likely to prevail in court. If you are going to lose a lawsuit, it is cheaper and easier to settle the claim out of court in a confidential setting.
The best way to get to that point is to amass a juggernaut of evidence. You will need witness testimony, photographs, and medical opinions. If you have the evidence it more likely that you will settle.
Let us go back to Patti and Dan. Imagine that the incident was caught on a traffic camera, and the camera shows Patti walking on the shoulder of the road when Dan swerves to hit her. That evidence gets rid of the issues of fact. Dan is more likely to settle the claim if Patti has the video.