Do Most Car Accident Cases Go to Court?

Most car accident cases do not go to court, and relatively few lawsuits go all the way to trial. The majority of civil cases—including car accident cases—end with a settlement.

With this said, every case is different, and your case will present unique circumstances. There is no telling whether your case will settle or go to trial until it reaches its conclusion.

Why Don’t Many Car Accident Cases Go to Court?

There are a few reasons why car accident cases generally settle before going to trial.

Civil trials are generally:

  1. Expensive
  2. Time-consuming
  3. Complicated

The fact is, a trial isn’t always necessary. If the plaintiff and defendant(s) can agree to a settlement, there’s no reason to go to court.

Why Would a Defendant Settle?

Most reasonable people avoid spending (or paying) money if they can help it. It’s reasonable that a defendant—including the defendant in your case—wouldn’t volunteer to compensate you.

Eventually, though, a defendant may decide that settling makes sense because:

  • They have liability for your accident
  • The evidence shows that they have liability for your accident
  • They believe they could lose if the case goes to court
  • They don’t want to pay the cost of going to trial, even if they might win

These are compelling reasons to settle.

Why Would a Plaintiff Settle?

A plaintiff may settle for some of the same reasons a defendant would. As a plaintiff, you (or your attorney) may not want to pay the cost of a trial—at least, if they don’t have to. A competent attorney will always be willing to go to trial if it’s the right decision for their client.

In addition to avoiding the cost of a trial, a plaintiff may settle because:

  • A settlement covers the cost of their damages, making a trial unnecessary
  • They cannot afford to wait for a trial to complete
  • They want to avoid the complications that a trial can present
  • They want to move on from their car accident case as quickly as possible

Many factors determine whether you’ll settle or go to court. The most important question, for most, is this: Does a settlement offer compensate you fairly? If it does, then you may agree to the settlement.

When Is Court Necessary?

Going to court may be necessary whenever a plaintiff and defendant can’t settle.

A defendant may choose to go to trial if:

  • They believe that they’re not liable for the plaintiff’s losses
  • They believe the cost of going to trial is less than the cost of settling
  • They’re not concerned about cost and don’t want to give the perception of fault

A plaintiff may also choose to go to trial rather than settle. They may do so because:

  • They have not received a fair settlement offer
  • They believe the cost of a trial is worth the potential judgment they’ll receive
  • They want to get the maximum possible recovery

Every case is unique. Each plaintiff and defendant are unique. Motivations to go to trial, or to settle, can vary.

How Do You Determine What a Fair Settlement Is?

Each car accident victim suffers unique damages. Determining a fair settlement figure requires knowledge of a victim’s losses.

Losses from a car accident may include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Counseling, medications, and other treatment for pain and suffering
  • Lost income and earning power
  • Lost productivity
  • Lost quality of life
  • The cost of temporary transportation
  • Vehicle damage
  • Damage to personal property
  • Permanent disability

Your attorney will identify which losses you’ve suffered and the monetary value of those losses. This will provide them with the value of a fair settlement.

Who Is Liable for Damages in a Car Accident Case?

Like damages, liability varies from case to case. The reality is that negligent motorists cause most accidents. When a motorist causes an accident, they may be liable for resulting damages, but other parties might also share responsibility.

Negligence is the common standard for liability. Someone is negligent when they depart from reasonable standards of conduct.

The steps for proving negligence are:

  1. Establishing that the negligent party owed the plaintiff a duty of care
  2. Proving that the negligent party breached their duty of care
  3. Showing that the breach of duty of care caused the plaintiff’s car accident
  4. Exhibiting the damages resulting from the accident

Parties other than motorists can be liable for a car accident. A governmental body, pedestrian, mechanic, and vehicle manufacturer can bear liability. Your attorney will investigate your accident to determine liability.

What Else Does a Personal Injury Do for a Car Accident Victim?

A personal injury lawyer should do everything in their power to win the client’s case. The client should be able to focus on their recovery. The attorney, meanwhile, will handle the legal process.

A personal injury lawyer’s responsibilities generally include:

  • Obtaining evidence from the car accident
  • Documenting injuries and medical treatment
  • Documenting other accident-related losses
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Working with the client’s doctors
  • Filing the case and all related paperwork
  • Negotiating a settlement
  • Completing a trial if they don’t settle the case

Insurance companies and other attorneys may try to take advantage of the car accident victim. A lawyer’s foremost responsibility is protecting the client’s rights.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Personal injury lawyers generally work for a contingency fee. The lawyer doesn’t receive this fee when they accept the case. Rather, they only get paid if they win the client’s case. The fee is contingent upon the lawyer securing compensation for the client.

Contingency fees ensure that every car accident victim can hire a lawyer.

Your Case May Have a Deadline

Car accident cases are subject to deadlines depending on state law. In Florida, for example, you generally have four years after your accident to file a personal injury case, while Washington gives you three years. You may have only two years to file a wrongful death case. Your lawyer will need to honor these deadlines. The sooner you hire a lawyer, the longer they’ll have to investigate, negotiate, and file your case.

You may face many challenges after your car accident. By hiring a lawyer, you can mark your case off of the list.

January 25, 2022

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