Is It Better For Me To Settle My Auto Accident Case, Or Go To Trial?

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Is It Better For Me To Settle My Car Accident Case, Or Go To Trial?

Everyday we get into our cars without a thought about getting into an accident. Driving to and from work, dropping the kids off at school or picking them up from practice, running errands and visiting friends. For all of this time spent in our vehicles we take for granted that we will get from point A to point B without physically encountering another driver.

Unfortunately, for hundreds of Oregon residents each year, this is not the reality. When you are faced with the stress and pain of a motor vehicle accident you have several questions. How will this be resolved? Do I sue the other driver? Do I sue the insurance company? Do I settle? Or, should I go to court?

The reality is that the complexity, cost, and duration of each car accident and personal injury case can vary tremendously and thus the resolution for each can vary. While there are several variables that will impact the direction your case goes, one constant in every case is VALUE. What is the value of your case?

Personal injury attorneys lament over this question everyday. While our allegiance is to our clients and making sure they are adequately and fairly compensated for their physical and emotional injuries, we have to be realistic about what a juror or judge may deem adequate and fair.

The fact is, you will never know if accepting a settlement is a better decision that going to trial, unless you actually go to trial. Hindsight is 20/20 and if the trial verdict of your motor vehicle case is more than the pre-trial settlement offer; you can feel good knowing that going to trial was in your best interest. Trial and error is not the best way to make this type of decision. Therefore, it is the responsibility of your personal injury or car accident attorney to provide you with a cost benefit analysis of settling vs. going to trial.

For instance, let’s say:

  • The value range of your claim is $8-10,000.
  • The attorney will charge you 1/3 of any settlement or 40% of any verdict after a trial. (These are industry standard figures for most personal injury attorneys)
  • The costs of trying the case will be approximately $5,000 (costs represent expenses such as filing fees, court fees, expert fees, trial exhibits, etc.).

If you settled your auto accident case for the mid-range of the case value (let’s say $9,000), you will net approximately $6,000 after attorney fees.

Next, it’s important to analyze the scenario of going to trial.

If your verdict at trial equaled the settlement offer of $9,000, the breakdown would be as follows:

  • VERDICT  =  $9,000
  • ATTORNEY FEES (40%)  = $3,600
  • COSTS  =  $5,000
  • TOTAL COSTS      & FEES = $8,600.
  • NET TO YOU: ($9,000 – $8,600)   = $400

Note that while the attorney fees increase slightly, the real difference is made up by the costs associated with litigation.  Clearly, taking your case to trial would net you a loss. BUT, that is only if the offer to settle your claim was a value offer (e.g. $8-10,000). To net the same $6,000 at trial you will likely need to obtain a verdict of $19,000.  Here is the breakdown for that:

  • VERDICT =  $ 19,000
  • ATTORNEY FEES= $ 7,600
  • COSTS  = $ 5,000
  • TOTAL COSTS & FEES   = $ 12,600
  • NET TO YOU: ($19,000 – $12,600)  =  $ 6,400

As you can see, determining the VALUE of your case impacts the decision of going to trial or not significantly. An accomplished personal injury or car accident attorney will be able to use their years of experience to determine a general value for your case.

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