Were you involved in a car accident, slip and fall, or pedestrian accident? If so, you may be wondering if your case will go to trial. Like many other areas of law, the majority of cases resolve due to a settlement being reached by the parties involved. Only a small percentage of cases actually go to trial.
However, an experienced personal injury lawyer will prepare a case as if it were going to trial because that usually gives them the best leverage and chances of resolving the matter favorably for their client. Continue reading to learn more about personal injury cases and how they are generally resolved.
Most Personal Injury Cases Will Settle Before Trial
In order to even go to trial, a lawsuit has to actually be filed with the court. Many personal injury cases are resolved pre-suit or before a lawsuit or complaint is filed with the court.
An experienced personal injury attorney oftentimes can negotiate good settlements by dealing with the insurance company or their adjusters during pre-suit negotiations. This allows for a more expedient resolution so that you are not waiting years to resolve your case, and the insurance company saves on unnecessary legal fees.
Many insurance companies want to avoid an injury trial. This can be a win-win for all involved, depending on the circumstances.
What Do You Have to Prove in a Personal Injury Case?
The first thing that either party looks to determine is who is at fault for the injury or accident. Generally, personal injury cases are based on negligence.
To prove negligence, the plaintiff must prove that:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant breached that duty;
- The defendant’s breach of duty directly and proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury; and
- The plaintiff suffered damages as a result.
If liability is clear – meaning it is undisputed who is at fault – the remaining issue becomes the value of damages. Sometimes, both parties share some fault in the accident. This is called comparative fault, and damages can be awarded based on the respective fault of the parties.
You may have also heard that Florida is a no-fault state for auto insurance, which refers to the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law. That statute outlines Florida’s personal injury protection policy for motor vehicle accidents.
What Types of Damages Are Available in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Once liability is determined, the most litigated issue or the reason many cases end up going to trial is due to a disagreement regarding damages. The plaintiff carries the legal burden to prove actual damages. It is not enough to say that someone is at fault, but the plaintiff must show what actual “damage” was created because of the other party’s negligence or actions.
There are various types of damages that a plaintiff can seek in a personal injury lawsuit.
The most common categories of damages are:
- Non-economic damages
- Economic damages
- Punitive damages
Compensatory damages do just that: compensate. Specifically, they compensate the injured party for injury to either their person or property. This is a monetary award meant to place the injured party in the same position as they were prior to the injury or loss. Both non-economic and economic damages are types of compensatory damages.
Economic damages compensate and reimburse a party for things like medical expenses, lost wages, and reduced earning potential.
Non-economic damages are not so easy to put a price tag on. These types of losses include pain and suffering or mental/emotional distress.
Punitive damages exist to “punish” the defendant. They are not directly linked to actual economic damages or meant to specifically compensate anyone. Instead, Florida law creates these types of damages to punish a defendant for certain acts or omissions to deter future behavior of that kind and protect the public from situations like these being repeated. Punitive damages can be devastating for a defendant, and sometimes even put them out of business or greatly impact how they conduct future business. However, these damages are limited and are rarely awarded in personal injury cases.
Insurance Companies Prefer to Avoid Trial
Trials can be expensive to litigate because the parties will likely need to hire experts, review evidence, conduct discovery, interview witnesses, and prepare for trial and court appearances.
Trials can also be unpredictable because the verdict or decision is not in the parties’ hands. This creates a fear of the unknown, and insurance companies specializing in evaluating risks will be conducting a thorough cost/benefit analysis and weighing the pros and cons every step of the way to minimize their exposure.
Why Can Trials Be Risky or Difficult?
Going to trial for an insurance company is difficult because most jurors do not sympathize with these companies. They relate much more to the “little guy” than the insurance company. The insurance company’s behavior is displayed to the jurors and could damage the company’s reputation. All of these things are factors they would consider.
However, a trial is not without risk to the plaintiff. Trials are emotionally taxing, and getting a case to trial requires several preliminary steps and a great deal of time. The injured party oftentimes cannot wait several years to be compensated for their loss. They have bills to pay, families to support, and injuries that require ongoing treatment, which may require loss of employment.
This puts an incredible financial strain on the plaintiff. A swift resolution is frequently in the plaintiff’s best interest or is necessary; therefore, the case won’t make it to trial.
Contact a Destin Personal Injury Lawyer For Help With Your Personal Injury Case
It is important to have an attorney who is familiar with personal injury cases all the way through trial. You also need a lawyer who is both a strong negotiator and a capable litigator to get the best possible outcome for your situation. With a skilled personal injury lawyer by your side, you will be best prepared whether your case ends up going to trial or not.