Up to 95 percent of lawsuits are resolved in a settlement before going to trial. There are several reasons why most people choose this route. As your legal advocate, your Redding attorney will give you a recommendation on whether to settle or whether to take it to trial, but you, the client, will ultimately need to make the decision. Whether you’re the plaintiff (the injured party) or the defendant (the party being sued), you will want to be informed of your options.
The Settlement Process
The settlement process is somewhat similar to bargaining at a market. The plaintiff’s attorney begins the process by asking for an amount–usually high–from the defendant. The defendant’s attorney counters with a low offer, probably citing several issues with the plaintiff’s claim (perhaps contesting that the plaintiff antagonized a vaccinated guard dog while trying to steal property or questioning the length of time taken off work for whiplash). The plaintiff’s attorney then responds to these arguments and makes another counteroffer, slightly lower than the original one. And so it goes until both parties agree on an amount. If they don’t come to an agreement, the lawsuit goes to trial.
Very simply, the longer a case goes, the more it costs. The plaintiff generally hires an attorney on a contingency fee basis, meaning that the attorney receives a percentage of the settlement–often 33% of pre-trial settlements and 40% of amounts received during or after a trial. Defendants often hire lawyers at an hourly rate. Both plaintiffs and defendants may need to pay additional costs for expert witnesses. Other costs, especially for the losing party, could include court costs, travel, and time off work.
Additionally, trials are unpredictable. The plaintiff could lose the case or receive an amount much lower than what she had originally claimed. If that happens, the state may even require the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s attorney fees. With a settlement, both parties have more say on the amount to be paid.
Shorter Time Process
Trials can drag out for several years. To start with, the trial may not even start until a year or more after the claim is filed. Then, when a judgment is issued on the case, the losing party can appeal the case. If several appeals are filed, the process can take years.
Avoiding Public Scrutiny
Another big advantage to settling a case is the benefit of avoiding public scrutiny. At a trial, both parties may be subjected to examinations of their character and of private details. All court data, including witness testimonies, will be on public record. Settlements take place behind closed doors.
Additionally, with a settlement, the defendant will be able to keep a court judgment off his public record.
Whether you decide to settle your case or take the risk of going to trial, your Redding attorney will be committed to advocating on your behalf and working with you toward the best possible resolution of your situation.