In our 70 years of practicing personal injury law in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, we are often asked about the likelihood of going to trial. Only 3% of personal injury cases make it to trial. That statistic should immediately tell you that you will likely not have to go to court to get the compensation you deserve. But there are some instances where litigation is unavoidable. We’ll go over those scenarios below.
When Trial is Unavoidable
If the defendant denies liability. To settle your case, the negotiation typically involves little back and forth over liability in personal injury cases. Liability is almost always clear and absolute, such as a rear-end collision or a car accident. But we may have to argue liability in more complex personal injury cases such as a slip-and-fall, dog bite, or nightclub injury. Nevertheless, it just so happens that the negotiation centers around something other than this aspect of your case.
However, if the defendant does deny liability, then the negotiation stops there. We can attempt to explain to the defense that they are misinformed, and this often works, but there is no guarantee. When they prove impossible to reason with, we must file suit on your case and go to trial to get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries. At trial, we must prove each element of the relevant cause of action by a preponderance of the evidence. That means we must show that it is more likely than not that each element occurred as we say it did.
Suppose we cannot agree with the defendant on a full and fair monetary value for your injuries. Remember, while you had to live with the pain and suffering from your injury, the defendant did not. They, or their insurance company, want to pay you as little money as possible. Thus, they will negotiate the settlement amount as much as they can. Our only course of action to keep them in check is to litigate the issue. Knowing they will have to pay you a given amount regardless, the threat of litigation ultimately causes them to pay a settlement. In the meantime, they realize they may as well spare themselves the expense of litigation and pay in advance.
When the defendant chooses not to pay the total amount, it is for various reasons in those 3% of times. In some cases, the insurance companies have the resources to fight more cases in court, knowing there is a chance they might win despite having a liable insured. Or, they may genuinely not understand the actual value of your claim, bringing us to the same result of litigation.
The third scenario is less likely, and it is not advised. This is when a plaintiff has unreasonable expectations of the value of their case and thus rejects reasonable settlement offers, forcing us to file suit. The applicable statute of limitations should be in every personal injury lawyer’s mind. If we cannot negotiate the amount a client wants because they read online that their case is worth more than the insurance company offers, we may have no choice but to file suit. We file suit in this instance to preserve your right to compensation for your injury. The statute of limitations in Washington, D.C., and Maryland is three years. So, if you treat for two and a half years, we cannot wait any longer to file suit as we do not want to risk being barred from recovery due to the statute.
As personal injury attorneys, we advise our clients on what their case is worth. Suppose you are offered $30,000 on your case, but you want $1 million for a case realistically only worth $25,000 at trial. In that case, we must inform you of your options, advise you of the proper decision, and ultimately leave it in your hands to make the decision. This is your case, we cannot make this decision for you. Accordingly, if you decide you want to go to trial, we will take your case to trial and let a judge and jury decide the fate of your case. Your input is crucial throughout this process, and we are committed to your desired outcome, in or outside of court.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you are still deciding whether your case will go to trial, please contact our office for a free consultation. In addition to the cases listed above, we also handle motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, wrongful deaths, and more.