Pre-trial Settlement Percentage: Statistics on Personal Injury Settlements

Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

Four percent to five percent of the personal injury cases in the United States go to trial.  95 percent to 96 percent of personal injury cases are settled pretrial.   Several researchers and experts quote these numbers like gospel.  The source of these statistics is the US Government, so gospel it is.  Another statistic that many experts also quoted is that 90 percent of the cases that do go to trial end up losing.  As for the cases that go to trial, those that win do better when the case is in front of a trial judge rather that a jury.  The trial judge seems to pay off at a higher rate and for more money.  Interesting statistic this is.

One reason for so many cases being settled seemed to be the length of time that it takes for the lawyers to begin haggling settlement amounts.  Most of the people who experienced a settlement arrived at it because of the time lag, being very impatient.  Apparently this is where television and Hollywood have done humanity in the United States a great disservice.  These venues have apparently given the US population that negotiations occur rather quickly and trial soon ensues with the plaintive winning the big bucks.  Well, the bubble burst and sad tidings came out.  Several lawyers and experts lay out the activities involved in the execution of a personal injury case.  It is actually the same as in a criminal case but the resources used are those of the attorney offices involved.  These offices do not usually have three or four detectives to do interviews and investigations; typically they have one who is assigned to the case specifically because that investigator is often contracted for the case.

The injuries, the accident itself, any witnesses, circumstances surrounding the accident are all aspects of the case that need to be investigated.   This is a phase of the case that is known as “discovery”.  Part of discovery is the taking of dispositions where out-of-court, yet under oath interviews are done.  This all takes time and experts state that this area could take up to six months at a minimum to accomplish.  While this is going on, the injured party’s lawyer is calculating what the money settlement might be if it was won by trial.  From that estimate, the lawyer subtracts out all of the cost that would occur while waiting for the case to go to trial and the cost of having the trial, including work time lost and such.  On the injuries themselves, it often takes some time for the full extent of the injuries to be revealed.  Rushing to a settlement number and to trial and getting a settlement and finding out that one’s injuries are much worse that thought becomes a “too bad, no recourse” situation.  Patience with the process, trusting one’s lawyer is very important.  Perhaps a willingness to enter into arbitration with an appointed arbitrator would be a good move.  The negotiation process itself is time consuming.  From there, the back and forth is in play until both sides agree or end negotiations and decide to go to trial.  At this point at least two years … or more have passed.

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