Most car accident cases reach settlements without going to court. Doing so can help injured victims avoid the unpredictability of a jury trial, receive compensation more quickly, save money on litigation costs, and achieve closure. While settling a personal injury claim out of court can be the quickest option, however, going to trial may be necessary in some cases.
Reasons Accident Cases Commonly Settle Before the Trial
Numerous factors contribute to the resolution of car crash claims before they reach the courtroom – from the court system’s setup and the strength of each side’s case to a desire to resolve the matter quickly and move forward. While going to trial offers some benefits, reaching settlements without litigation has several advantages for plaintiffs and defendants alike.
The Court System
Before some civil actions, including auto accident claims, proceed through the system, the plaintiffs and defendants must engage in alternative forms of dispute resolution. For instance, before they can go to trial, civil claims for damages of less than $50,000 must go through nonbinding arbitration. During this process, a neutral arbitrator listens to and examines evidence from both sides before issuing an opinion on the respective merits of the plaintiff’s and defendant’s cases. The advisory opinions offered by arbitrators may aid in negotiations to reach mutually agreeable settlements. Arbitration and other such pretrial interventions seek to foster resolving cases and refraining from adding to the heavy caseload borne by the courts.
Negligence and Fault
The potential negligence and fault that plaintiffs and defendants share in causing motor vehicle collisions may contribute to them pursuing settlement to accident claims outside the courtroom. For example, a driver consumed several alcohol-containing beverages at a social gathering before running a red light and t-boning another vehicle. The driver or the driver’s insurance company may be reticent to have the matter heard before a jury who may see the driver’s behavior as grossly negligent and award a massive verdict to the plaintiff as a result.
By the same token, injury victims who themselves may bear some fault for the accident may also benefit from reaching a compensation agreement without going to trial. Should the defendant argue this in court, the damages the plaintiff can recover may be reduced based on the degree of his or her negligence in causing the collision and resulting injuries. Achieving a settlement without litigation may allow them to maximize their compensation award and limit their risk of receiving little or no damages for their losses.
The Unpredictability of Litigation
Placing the decision in the hands of a jury, the outcomes of car crash cases that go to court are far from predictable. Although charged with making impartial decisions based on the evidence presented to them, jurors’ emotions may cloud their judgment on some legal matters. In some cases, this may lead to resolutions that neither side finds suitable. By settling out of court, plaintiffs may avoid a situation in which they do not receive any compensation for their injury-associated losses and defendants may prevent having substantial verdicts handed down against them.
A Quicker Path to Payment and Closure
Settling without going to court allows those who have suffered accident injuries to more efficiently receive payment and achieve closure. Insurance companies and defendants in personal injury claims may also favor reaching expeditious resolutions, so they can close the claim files and put the matter behind them. It may take months or, in some cases, even years to get a trial date for a civil action resulting from a car crash. In addition to the financial strain such a wait may take on people involved in auto accident litigation, it may also cause them added stress and emotional duress. They may avoid such effects, however, by reaching a settlement outside of court.
The Role of the Insurance Companies
With the requirement for drivers to carry auto insurance policies, financial responsibility for the damages resulting from car crashes often falls to the at-fault drivers’ insurance companies. Negotiating with the insurance company may seem the most efficient and effective path toward achieving a resolution. However, once people agree to a settlement, they relinquish their rights to pursue legal action on the matter in the future. Although their slogans suggest protecting their customers is their primary mission, insurance companies are for-profit businesses. As such, their handling of auto accident cases often focuses on paying out as little as possible, getting the liability release signed, and closing out the claim as quickly as possible, which often means settling without going to court.