settlement or trial

If you are a complainant in a personal injury case, you will have the option to accept a settlement or take the case to trial. Typically, most of the personal injury cases in New York conclude in a settlement instead of going to a trial. But in some of these cases, going to trial might be the better option. The best way to find out the option that is appropriate for your personal injury case is to retain an experienced New York personal injury attorney.

If your lawyer can negotiate a fair and rightful settlement outside of court, you may not need to go through the rigors of a court trial. But, if the insurance company that you are up against denies you the just and rightful compensation that you deserve, and your attorney believes in the strength of your case and their own competence, you will need to fight the case in court. 

Let us further discuss in detail, both benefits and drawbacks of a settlement as well as a court trial for a New York City personal injury claim.

What is a Settlement?

A settlement is a process to resolve a claim by deciding on a mutually suitable compensation for personal injuries or damages, instead of taking the dispute to court. The plaintiff and the defendant can settle any time during litigation, or even prior to filing a lawsuit.

The process begins with the plaintiff’s attorney submitting a demand letter that mentions the plaintiff’s monetary demand for the damages, the legal reasoning supporting that demand, and copies of medical bills and other documents establishing monetary and other damages. 

The plaintiff and their attorney, after making these submissions, wait for the defense attorney to respond to their demand letter. The defendant’s attorney may place a counteroffer on the table, following which, both the attorneys and sometimes the insurance company, start negotiations to arrive at a settlement. 

Attorneys from both sides generally use emails and phone calls to negotiate, or sometimes meet at pre-trial hearings to iron out minor issues. Mostly, the negotiations bring about a mutually agreeable and satisfying settlement between the plaintiff and the defendant, avoiding the need to go to a trial.

Once both sides agree, they sign a formal document announcing the settlement as well as the release of liability. 

Benefits of a Settlement

Less Time and Stress

Settlements save a lot of time as compared to trials which can be arduous and long-drawn. Typically, a settlement may take less than six months, while a trial might continue for twice as long.

Settlements are generally quicker and more efficient while being less stressful as well as cost-effective than a trial.

More Flexibility in Negotiations

You, as a plaintiff, have an upper hand in the settlement negotiations. The decision to accept or reject a settlement offer, or to re-negotiate, rests completely in the hands of your personal injury lawyer and yourself. 

On the other hand, once you go to trial, the judge or jury has the final say on the amount of compensation you get for your injuries and damages. And you have no other choice but to accept the verdict.

Drawbacks of a Settlement

Chances of Lesser Compensation for Your Claims

The outcome of a settlement relies mostly on the strength of your case and the negotiating skills of your personal injury attorney. You could end up getting less than your rightful claim in a settlement than if you were to press for a trial.

If your attorney feels you have a case strong enough to justify the additional time, money, and stress of a court trial; then a settlement may not be the right course of action for you.

No Chance of Renegotiation

A settlement once agreed upon is permanent and irrevocable. Acceptance of a settlement offer closes doors of further litigation for you. Subsequently, if mounting costs for ongoing medical treatments were to escalate, or you discover new injuries related to the accident; you will not be able to reopen or renegotiate your claim. 

How Much Time Does A Settlement Take?

First, you need to decide to retain a competent and experienced New York City personal injury attorney for your case. Once you find such an attorney, they will start collecting evidence and information connected to your claim and will begin working on it.

For your personal injury claim, your lawyer will need to review the accident report, pictorial and video graphic evidence of your injuries, witness testimonies, medical treatment bills, and your consulting physicians’ statements. 

After documenting everything, your lawyer will come up with a monetary value to assign to your claim. The next step involves your lawyer placing a demand to the insurance company to initiate the negotiation process.

The insurance company is likely to come up with an offer in a few weeks, based on the worth of your claim and the strength of your evidence. Once both the demand and the offer are on the negotiating table, it is anyone’s guess how long the process will take.

However, most New York personal injury claims reach a settlement before going to trial. Since each case has its unique aspects, some might even benefit from going to trial.  

What is a Trial?

In a personal injury case in New York City, if the negotiations in a settlement process break down, the case usually goes to trial. The judge and jury, after hearing out the arguments from both plaintiff and the defendant, decide on whether to hold the defendant liable for the injuries and damages suffered by the plaintiff. 

Typically, a jury trial goes through six phases in its entirety:

  • Assembly of the jury
  • Opening statements by both parties
  • Testimony of the witness and cross-examination
  • Closing arguments by the attorneys from both sides
  • Instruction from the jury
  • Deliberation by the jury and subsequent verdict

A personal injury trial, depending upon the merits and strength of the case, could take anywhere from a few hours to many months. But however long or short the trial may be, it does require due diligence and tremendous preparation by a committed personal injury attorney to stand a chance in court.

Benefits of A Trial

Chances of More Compensation for Your Claims

A strong personal injury claim has the potential to secure more compensation in a trial as compared to a settlement. While an insurance company will probably negotiate hard to minimize the amount they shell out, a jury could be more sympathetic to your pain and suffering in their verdict and grant your rightful claim.

Sense of Closure and Justice

A trial can prove cathartic for the plaintiff in the sense that it brings closure and a sense of justice. Apart from the monetary compensation for the victim, a trial also assigns blame where it is due, by prosecuting the defendant for their negligence or misconduct. 

Drawbacks of a Trial

Long-Drawn and Stressful

Trials can often turn out to be drawn-out, costly, and stressful affairs. You might secure a verdict in a few days if you have an exceptionally strong case, or the litigation could go on for longer than a year. You must keep the court costs and lawyer fees of a protracted court battle in mind before taking the plunge. 

All or Nothing

Rejecting the settlement offer and taking your case to trial entails putting in the time, effort, and money, at the risk of not securing the rightful compensation. When you take your case to trial in the hope of winning the case, you must also be prepared to lose.

How Much Time Does a NY Personal Injury Trial Take?

The reason most NY personal injury cases settle instead of going to a trial is the reluctance of the complainants due to the fear of a trial taking up too much time. It becomes especially difficult to take on the extra costs and stress of a trial if the grievous nature of your injuries requires prolonged medical care, and you are out of work at the same time. 

The defendant and their attorneys will try to stretch out the litigation process. Even more reason for you to have a competent and experienced New York personal injury lawyer on your side, to work your way through the legal labyrinth quickly.

If you have a strong and straightforward case with clear documentation and solid evidence, your case may not get excessively prolonged. But if it is complicated to prove clear negligence, there are chances that the trial could take longer.

How to Find the Right Personal Injury Attorney in New York?

Ask the right questions. Like, the number of trials they have contested or the percentage of personal injury cases they have settled. Try to look for an attorney who will not drag you to court unnecessarily just to rack up their fee, but also someone who is not afraid to go to trial, if required.

Seek Legal Help from a Trusted NY Personal Injury Attorney

The personal injury attorneys at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff can help you settle outside of court or take your case to trial, as per the merits and strength of your claim. Our experienced lawyers are here to offer legal advice and free case evaluations for your personal injury claims.

Call Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP today at 1-800-660-2264 or contact us online.

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