If you’re on either side of a pending lawsuit, you may be nervous about the prospect of going to trial. If you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably never been directly involved in the trial process. Although it’s likely that you’ve seen stylized media portrayals of sleazy trial lawyers, forceful judges and rigid courtroom protocols, you may not know what to expect once you actually step through the double doors and enter your trial court. In fact, you might not even be aware that most modern courtrooms lack double doors.
Unless you’re involved in a complex case with no clear-cut “winner” or “loser,” your nervousness may be misplaced. Prior to the commencement of the trial process, the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits and product liability lawsuits are settled out of court. Although reliable median settlement figures are not available due to a lack of clear reporting standards, it’s likely that most pre-trial settlement amounts are comparable to the reported “value” of the corresponding lawsuit. In a financial sense, settlements tend to favor plaintiffs over defendants. Of course, settling a case out of court may protect the reputation and dignity of a defendant. In this regard, it can be said that both plaintiffs and defendants benefit from pre-trial settlements.
According to the most recently-available statistics, about 95 percent of pending lawsuits end in a pre-trial settlement. This means that just one in 20 personal injury cases is resolved in a court of law by a judge or jury. It also means that planning for a pre-trial settlement is a crucial component of any sound legal strategy. In fact, many seasoned personal injury plaintiffs use the bulk of the pre-trial preparation period to build a case that entices their opponents into settling for a favorable sum. If you would prefer to settle your case before trial, be sure to let your attorney know of your desire in a timely fashion.
It appears that personal injury trials favor the plaintiff: According to recent statistics, over 90 percent of cases that go to trial end in victory for the individual who brought the suit. This suggests that pre-trial settlements may be in the best interest of defendants who lack strong evidence to defend themselves against the charges that they face. In straightforward personal injury cases, the outcome of a trial can hinge on the testimony of a single key witness or the examination of certain pertinent records.