Your personal injury case probably won’t go to trial. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to say for sure without knowing the details of your claim.
Statistically, fewer than 10% of all personal injury claims go to trial. It’s better, however, to calculate your individual odds of making it to that point based on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Factors That Determine Whether Your Case Will Go to Trial
Depending on the complexity of your case, hundreds of factors might influence whether you go to trial. Some of these factors you might not even be able to identify.
Below is a small sampling of some of the factors that might matter. In all likelihood, not all of them will be relevant to your case, while some factors will be relevant even though they are not mentioned below.
The Amount of Your Claim
The greater the compensation you demand, the harder the defendant is likely to fight to avoid paying it. If the amount is high enough, the defendant might simply wait for a trial. You might wait, too, if the defendant refuses to settle on terms you consider reasonable.
How Serious Your Injuries Are
If your injuries are catastrophic, your case will become more complex. Consequently, you are more likely to end up at trial.
The Availability of Witnesses
The more your witnesses are scattered among multiple jurisdictions, the more impractical a trial will be. The less practical a trial is, the more likely you are to settle. Of course, the defendant might turn this around on you. With few available witnesses, the defendant might not fear a trial and may, therefore, refuse settlement.
The Complexity of Your Case
The more complex your case is, the more likely it is that you will need the resources that litigation has to offer (pretrial discovery, for example). Highly complex cases, such as some medical malpractice and product liability cases, can be almost impossible to settle out of court.
The Strength of Your Evidence
The stronger your evidence is, the more likely the defendant will be to settle the case. After all, why proceed to trial when defeat is likely?
The Strength of the Defendant’s Case
The stronger the defendant’s case, the less likely they are to settle with you. This dynamic could lead you to trial.
How much time do you have? Are you in a hurry to resolve your claim? Litigation takes time. It’s usually not the trial itself that takes the most time, but the preparation. Pretrial discovery, for example, can take up to a year in some cases. Once you’ve invested a year in litigation, you’re probably not going to be willing to settle easily.
Whether Liability Is Clear
If liability is clear, the outcome of a trial will be fairly certain. For that reason, the defendant will probably settle on your terms rather than risk a futile trial.
Whether Your Claim is a No-Fault Car Accident Claim
Florida’s no-fault car accident claim system prevents you from filing a lawsuit or going to trial against an at-fault party unless your injuries meet a certain minimum level of seriousness. Instead, Florida will expect you to rely on your PIP insurance to compensate you.
Your Attorney’s Litigation Track Record
Try to find an attorney, or at least a law firm, with a strong track record of winning at trial. Some personal injury lawyers settle nearly every case they take on, leaving them with little experience in court.
The opposing party will research your lawyer’s credentials. The less experience your lawyer has actually trying cases, the more likely it is that the opposing party will refuse to settle with them–and vice versa.
Your Need for Public Vindication
One of the main purposes of a trial is to offer litigants a public forum. If you need victory at trial to enhance or protect your public image, you might press all the way through to a trial rather than settle quietly. Of course, under other circumstances, the defendant might be the party refusing settlement and pressing for a public trial.
The “Plaintiff-Friendliness” of the Jurisdiction
Some jurisdictions are more plaintiff-friendly than others. For instance, California is blessed (or cursed) with a reputation for plaintiff-friendliness. You might be more willing to reject a settlement if you feel confident you can win at trial in a plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction. On the other hand, the defendant might be willing to settle for more to avoid trial in such a jurisdiction.
The Effectiveness of ADR
ADR, or alternative dispute resolution, involves out-of-court methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation and arbitration. Should you decide to try them (and it would take agreement from both parties), their effectiveness could keep you out of court.
The Statute of Limitations Deadline
The statute of limitations sets a deadline by which you must file a lawsuit, finalize a settlement, or abandon your claim. If it is looming, you might need to file a lawsuit just to preserve your claim. Once you have gone so far as to file a lawsuit, you might just decide to proceed all the way to a trial.
If Your Case Makes It All the Way to Trial
A trial involves the following phases.
Voir Dire (Jury Selection)
Juries decide most trials are decided by a jury, although the parties can agree to let a judge hear the case. Jury selection is an interactive, competitive process that involves both sides. Both sides will have the opportunity to interview potential jurors, and both sides can eliminate unacceptable candidates.
Each side’s attorney will give an opening statement. An opening statement is simply an argument explaining to the jury why you believe that you are right and what you will try to prove during the trial.
Presentation of Your Case
The plaintiff (accident victim) presents their case first, since they are the ones that filed the lawsuit in the first place. The plaintiff will call witnesses. They will use these witnesses to elicit testimony and evidence from the witness. The defense will then cross-examine the witnesses to probe for weaknesses in their testimony.
Presentation of the Defendant’s Case
After the plaintiff presents their case, the defendant might ask the judge to dismiss the case immediately for lack of evidence. Most of the time, the judge refuses to dismiss the case. The defendant will then present their case, using witnesses just as the plaintiff did. The plaintiff will cross-examine the defendant’s witnesses.
Closing arguments resemble opening arguments, except that the parties making their arguments will refer to the evidence already presented to support their claims.
The judge will instruct the jury on how to apply the law. The jury will then retire to a private place to deliberate. Once they have reached a decision, they will announce it to the court. Jury deliberations are confidential.
Start Seeking Legal Representation From a Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer Immediately
If your case makes it all the way to trial, even small claims court, you’re probably going to need legal representation. If your claim is too large for small claims court, you’re definitely going to need representation. This need for an experienced Tampa personal injury lawyer is especially acute if you go to trial—but it’s also true throughout your case, even before you file a lawsuit. You can contact Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers today by calling (813) 223-6200 to schedule your free consultation.