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If you’ve been pursuing your car accident case, and have an approaching trial date, you may be wondering whether it’s a good idea to go to trial. Of course, if you have an attorney representing you, you should rely on that attorney, as he or she is in the best position to advise you of your case.

However, regardless, there’s a couple things you need to consider before you make the ultimate decision.

What’s the cost of litigating the case?

I think too often clients get lost on the potential amount a jury (or judge) may award at trial. But, at the end of the day, you need to be focused on the actual dollars that will go in your pocket. Because even if you get a large jury verdict, but the costs of your case increase, you may not end up with a relative net gain.

As you approach trial, the cost of your litigation will increase. One major cost will be retaining your doctor(s) (if needed for trial). You need to have a solid understanding of what your doctor(s) will charge because often times their bill(s) can be in the thousands (and tens of thousands) of dollars.

Another cost to consider (if applicable in your case) are health care liens. If your health insurance paid your medical bills, they may have a right to reimbursement in your case. You should be aware of this number before considering going to trial, but often times, the health insurer may consider reducing your lien should you forego trial, and thus guaranteeing they will see some form of payment. Otherwise, if they may not be so willing to reduce their lien should you “put it on the line” and risk them not getting paid.

There is value in certainty.

Another cost not often considered is uncertainty. What I mean by this is, if an offer has been made on your case, you at least have the certainty that you will see that dollar amount. Should you pass on that offer and take your chances at trial, there’s never a guarantee that you will be the offer on the table (assuming an offer has been made).

There’s also a benefit (assuming you accept an offer of settlement) in certainty. By that I mean, you know how the case will resolve. Remember, even if you go to trial and win, the defense has the right to appeal the verdict. On appeal, there’s never any guarantee what’s going to happen.

Pigs eat. Hogs get slaughtered.

This is a saying that I take to heart. Of course, every case has to be considered on its own merits. Some cases need to go to trial because the insurance company has made a low offer, and it’s best to take your chances with the jury. Other cases warrant settlement because a legitimate offer has been made, and the client wants to get it done.

But in some cases, the offer is in the “grey area.” It’s not such a low offer to be outright rejected, but it’s not high enough to be a solid victory. In those instances, as an attorney, my job is to counsel my client on my thoughts of the settlement offer and prospects at trial. But the decision ultimately lies with the client.

Just remember, if a legitimate offer has been made in your case, you really need to consider what’s being put on the table and weigh that with the potential gain of putting your case in front of a jury. And you must be comfortable with the risk that things may not turn out as you like.

In cases we handle, so long as the client is willing to take the risk, it’s our duty to put on the best case for them possible. It’s a hard decision, just make sure to think it through.

Brian Glass
Virginia personal injury lawyer selected to SuperLawyers Rising Stars List and the NTLA's Top 40 Under 40.