Is It Better to Settle a Car Accident Case or Go to Court?

People are sometimes surprised to hear about car accident cases going to trial. Typically, this happens if the car accident case is large and there is a dispute over who is at fault. Virginia is a contributory negligence state. This means that if you are at fault for an accident, even just 1%, then you will not be able to recover damages from the accident. Insurance companies will do everything they can to find you at fault for the accident, so many cases go to trial if there is debate over who caused the accident.

Car accident cases involving major injuries are more likely to go to trial. Small cases involving soft tissue damage, neck pain, and mental trauma rarely go to court. These cases are generally settled, and often victims don't need an attorney for small personal injury cases. The insurance company has more at stake in cases with major injuries or wrongful death. Major injuries generally mean the insurance company will have to pay the victim a large sum, and some insurance companies would rather take their chances at trial.

What Most People Don't Know about Car Accident Cases and Trials

A trial for a car accident case isn't like "Judge Judy." The types of car accidents that go to court are serious and often traumatic. The insurance company will be represented by one (or more) attorney who will present evidence of the accident and do their best to convince the jury that you are at fault or your injuries don't merit a large settlement. That is right, car accident cases are heard by juries in Virginia.

Juries are an unknown factor in many car accident cases. They decide how much your injuries are worth. They base their decision on what they learn during trial, but each jury has a unique personality. One jury could award you a high settlement, while another may decide against you. That is why car accident attorneys have to choose the cases they take to trial carefully. If there are any factors in your case that may sway the jury against you, an attorney may decide to settle with the insurance company before trial.

Can You Persuade a Lawyer to Take Your Case to Trial?

Personal injury attorneys are paid in contingent fees. They take a percentage of your settlement after you reach an agreement with the insurance company. If your case goes to trial, the attorneys' fees will be higher than if you settle with the insurance company.

If you pressure your attorney to take your case to trial, and your case does not merit one, then you may ultimately lose money. Additionally, trials are risky, even for cases where the fault is clear and the damages are high. You can lose part or all of the settlement your insurance company offered before trial.

Not all personal injury lawyers have trial experience, either. That is why you must select your attorney carefully. Some personal injury attorneys only work on small cases, while others work on larger cases. The only way to know for certain is by checking their reviews, testimonials, case results, and interviewing several attorneys before you sign someone to work on your case. If your case is large and complex, you don't want a lawyer that will settle when the insurance company makes their first offer.

Should You Settle or Go to Trial for Your Car Accident Case?

The answer is not simply "if your injuries are X then go to trial." You and your attorney must consider the risks, your injuries, the potential value of your case, and the results of other cases similar to yours in your county. You should also have an attorney willing to go to trial if your case calls for it. Depending on the details, a trial may be best for your case. If your injuries were small, and there was only property damage, you will not need to risk a trial.

Ben Glass
Ben Glass is a nationally recognized Virginia injury, medical malpractice, and long-term disability attorney