Statistically speaking, over 90% of car accident cases reach a settlement before they get to court. The onus is on insurance companies to settle as quickly as possible. That being said, insurance companies don’t stay in business by paying out generous claims to every potential plaintiff. Their goal is to pay out as little as possible and get you to sign off on it.
This is not to say that they’re inherently unfair. They do have a great deal of pressure to make you a reasonable offer, enough to convince you that your odds aren’t better in court. Whether accepting the settlement amount or vowing to take it to a judge, there are pros and cons to either course.
Benefits of a Settlement
Avoiding a dragged-out court case.
Court cases are unpredictable for either insurance company or claimant, depending on a wide array of variables. Juries, especially, may be hard to predict, and even lone judges may be rogues who are biased towards either claimants or insurance companies. The risk of a court case is mostly on the insurance company, however, provided you have a solid case.
Quicker resolution for you.
If you’re injured, you already have enough to worry about without having to go to court on multiple dates. While a court case can drag out for months and even years, you won’t be seeing a penny of the settlement until it resolves. By settling, you will start getting money right away.
Less legal expense.
Even though your attorney will take your case on a contingency fee where they only get paid if they win you a cash amount, that fee might eat into the eventual court-ordered compensation. The same goes for the insurance company, whose lawyers don’t work for free either. A contest that drags on fighting over the compensation ends up with lots of the money attorneys’ pockets by the end of it. The advantage here on both parties is to settle with the minimum amount of hassle.
Benefits of a Court Case
A court case should only be necessary for one reason: You are injured and you and your car accident lawyer feel you are not getting enough money to compensate you for your pain, suffering, and expenses from lost work and other opportunities.
Insurance companies sometimes count on a claimant being intimidated out of going to court. They’ll make a lower offer if they think they have the upper hand, but, a lot of times, the first murmur of a lawsuit will prod them to re-think their proposal.
A full court settlement in your favor can be a very handsome sum indeed, and of course, if you have extensive injuries which disable you in the long-term or permanently, you are depending on that settlement for your livelihood.
In many cases, the only time an insurance company generally wants a fight is if they are dead-certain that you are falsifying or exaggerating your claim. If this is the case, an insurance adjuster, investigators, surveillance, and interrogations may enter the picture. An attorney for the insurance company can call you in for a deposition, which is almost like a miniature trial in itself. Be aware that this can turn into a very dirty fight, with the insurance company trying to trick you into admitting you aren’t that badly injured, or investigators trying to catch you acting less injured than you claim.
Trust Your Counsel
Your car accident lawyer is usually the best person to determine if you should take it to court or accept a settlement. Keep in mind that a settlement can happen at any time. Just because you filed suit does not prevent you from accepting, or even offering, a settlement later.
This is why a legal action may be launched, even though one or the other party has little interest in following through. A filed complaint lets the other party see that you mean business.
In the end, it’s really up to you, your attorney and the insurance company. Personal injury lawsuits are all unique. However, only 10% do not end in a settlement, which means that parties are often willing to negotiate and settle. As such, the decision of how far you want to take any car accident lawsuit is entirely up to you. Just be certain you are getting the right legal advice to inform your decision.