If I Bring a Personal Injury Claim, Do I Need to Go to Court?
Not necessarily. In most cases, if you have a personal injury case that arises out of either a motor vehicle accident, motorcycle accident and fault is either established or your attorney can get on the same page with the insurance company about allocation of fault, then your lawyer will usually try to settle the case out of court, which means, basically, we would follow you along until you’re done treating and, hopefully, back to 100%. If you’re not back to 100%, we basically follow you along until a point where you’re as good as you’re going to be from those injuries, and your doctors can tell us that, look, you’re going to have some residual effects from this. I don’t hope that. I don’t wish that for any of my clients, but sometimes that happens.
When you get to one of those two points, either back to 100% or as good as you’re going to get, typically, what I will do is I will send a demand package to the insurance company for the responsible party that will lay out all your expenses, all the damages that you have, your medical bills, your lost wages if you have any, and explain how it’s impacted your life, and the disability going forward, how it will impact your life, if at all. Then you turn to negotiations with the insurance company, and they’re going to get to a point where they will tell you, look, this is our last, best, and final offer. At that point, it’s really up to the client to decide what to do. Choice A is you accept that settlement. You sign a release, and that claim is forever then closed to you. Option 2 is, if either you’re dissatisfied with that settlement amount or you want to pursue it further, we file a lawsuit.
If you file a lawsuit, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to have a trial on the case. I would say probably a good 80-plus percent of cases where lawsuits are filed are going to settle at some stage. It’s just there are some more hoops that you have to jump through, some court appearances. You will probably have to give some testimony under oath. Answer written questions. Then the hopes would be that you’re able to negotiate a better offer. That’s not always the case. In certain cases, the insurance company really gives you no choice but to go to trial either because they refuse to accept responsibility for the accident, or the offer that they are giving you is so low it doesn’t make any sense.
My philosophy on these types of things is usually to give the client all the information that I can so that he or she can make a good educated decision about whether it makes sense to settle the case, or to pursue it, or take that next step. I know certain lawyers will try to pressure a client into either taking a settlement or preceding one way or the other. That’s always rubbed me the wrong way. I look at this as, if my client was a close friend of mine or a relative and I wanted them to make a good decision, what is the information I’d want them to know so that they can do so?