Knowing When to Settle and When to Go to Trial

A well-executed settlement can be one of the best resolutions in a civil claim.

For one, in settlements the conflict ends immediately, rather than being dragged on in court for months or even years. Not only that, but you are guaranteed the money you have been offered, rather than go through the lengthy process of litigation only to end up with an outcome that is less than favorable.

If you aren’t paid following a settlement, then you have the right to a trial. But if you decide to go to trial, even if you win your case, you may not receive payment from the defendant immediately. For example, O.J. Simpson has had a multi-million dollar court ruling placed against him for years, but still hasn’t paid it out.

Although there are court protections in place to compensate plaintiffs eventually, the process can take a long time.

With that said, however, there is a disadvantage of settling that may make going to trial worth the hassle. When plaintiffs decide to settle, they forfeit their right to go to trial, and consequently, any outcomes that may have been awarded to them by a court.

Here are a few factors to keep in mind when deciding whether to settle your claim or go to trial.

Calculating the Value of Your Claim
Settling vs. going to trial can be a complicated decision. You must take into account several factors—the most important of which being the answer to the question: How much is my case worth?

The most reliable way to determine the value of your claim is consulting with an attorney. While you may be able to add up the medical bills and receipts on your own, there are many other types of compensatory damages (lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) that you may be qualified to receive. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your claim and estimate the potential award amount.

Identifying a Good Settlement Offer
Once you know how much your claim is worth, you are ready to decide on a settlement offer.

Some believe that a sign of a good settlement is when both parties walk away unhappy—the defendant paid more than he wanted, and the plaintiff accepted less than she wanted.

In general, if a settlement offer is close to an attorney’s value of your case, then it is a good offer and should be seriously considered. However, the factor of liability may mean it is wise to consider a lower settlement offer.

If the defendant is clearly at fault, then settling for anything less than your initial settlement offer is unwise. However, if a plaintiff shared in the fault, or fault is unclear in the case, they should take that into account. For instance, if a plaintiff is 20% at fault for the accident, then a good settlement offer from the defendant would be close to 80% of the plaintiff’s damages.  

When to Consult an Attorney
While a settlement can be a more beneficial resolution to an injury claim compared to going to trial, plaintiffs should be careful not to accept an offer that’s too low. Sometimes a defendant’s lawyer will submit a settlement amount well below a claim’s real value, hoping to entice the plaintiff with quick cash into accepting a low offer.

Of course, ultimately it is up to you whether to accept a settlement or go to trial. But if you have filed a serious personal injury claim, it is strongly recommended that you let an attorney evaluate how much your case is worth before accepting a settlement offer from the other side.  

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Workers Compensation
Attorney Profile:

Meet Colorado Workers' Compensation, Personal Injury and Insurance Dispute Attorney R. Mack Babcock

Prior to founding The Babcock Law Firm, LLC, R. Mack Babcock spent many years on the other side of workers' compensation , personal injury and insurance disputes representing some of the largest insurance companies and corporations in Colorado as an attorney at a midsize insurance defense firm.

Babcock is a member of the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations, the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association and the Workers' Compensation Educational Association.  In early 2008, he was elected as the Colorado House District 43 Committee Chairperson for the Douglas County Colorado Democratic Party. In connection with this position, he is responsible for finding a candidate(s) to run for House District 43, overseeing the campaign(s), organizing volunteers, and also sits on the executive committee for the Douglas County Democratic Party.