How Many Personal Injury Law Cases Go to Court?
Each year, millions of accident victims file lawsuits in court, but only a fraction ever reach a trial. Some cases are dismissed because the victim filed in the wrong court or sued the wrong defendant. But most cases end with a settlement because settling a dispute works for everyone involved.
At Surasky Law, our Aiken, SC personal injury lawyer is prepared to do whatever it takes to seek justice for his clients—up to and including going to trial to vindicate their right to compensation. Please contact our law firm for help with your case.
About 5% of Personal Injury Cases Go to Trial
To our knowledge, no one has performed a recent nation-wide study to determine what percentage of personal injury cases go to trial. There are probably several reasons for this, one of which is the difficulty in obtaining this information. Only insurance companies have a good handle on the number of personal injury claims filed across the country, and they have not compiled and released this information.
However, an older study pointed to a mere 5% of personal injury cases going to trial. And a study from 2009 which looked at one federal court in Pennsylvania found that roughly 87% of all tort cases settled—although that was only a federal and not a state court. As an experienced personal injury law firm, we think these numbers are fairly accurate.
There’s a Valid Reason to File a Lawsuit—Even if You Hope to Settle
To start a lawsuit, you file a complaint. This document identifies who you are suing and provides a summary of the accident and why the defendant is at fault. We also make a claim for compensation.
Filing this complaint kicks off the litigation process, but you don’t immediately go to trial. Instead, the defendant gets to respond to your complaint by filing his own pleading in court. Then both sides show up to the court to discuss “discovery,” which is the evidence-gathering phase of litigation. Discovery can last up to a year, sometimes longer. Only after several more court appearances do you finally, at the end of a long process, get your day in court for your personal injury claim.
So we might file a lawsuit on your behalf, but all the while we are trying to reach a settlement that is perfect for you. Why then do we file the lawsuit in the first place?
South Carolina has a statute of limitations which gives victims a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit after an accident. Under S.C. Code § 15-3-530, they get three years. That’s the maximum amount of time. If they try to file after that deadline, a judge will toss the case and victims get no compensation at all because they have forfeited their rights.
Put simply, we file a lawsuit in most cases to preserve our client’s right to sue.
Settling a Claim Has Many Benefits
In our experience, very few cases ever go to trial. Instead, we can typically reach a favorable resolution with the other side and settle.
There are many benefits to settling:
· You can receive compensation faster. As mentioned above, 1-2 years could pass from the date of the accident to your day in court. Few injured victims want to wait that long.
· You are guaranteed some compensation. It is always possible you might lose at trial, in which case you get nothing. By settling, you might get a little less than you hoped, but you are guaranteed some money for your injuries.
· You avoid the stress of trial. Many clients fear testifying in open court, which they can avoid by settling.
Under South Carolina law, a client always retains the ultimate authority to accept or reject a settlement offer. We can advise you on whether we think the proposed settlement is fair. But it is your choice to accept it.
Why Cases End Up Going to Trial
Sometimes cases can’t settle. And sometimes we recommend that clients not accept a settlement offer. There are two common reasons why some cases are destined to be argued in front of a jury:
· Disagreement about fault. Sometimes we remain too far apart on the question of who is to blame for the accident. For example, in a sideswipe accident, we might believe the other driver is 100% to blame because he failed to yield. However, the other side might believe our client is 100% to blame for not slowing down when merging. In this type of disagreement, only a jury can step in and decide the issue of fault.
· Settlement offer is too low. There is a trade-off when accepting a settlement—you might get a little less than you hope, but you are guaranteed some money, which is not true at trial. For this reason, most of our clients settle. However, some offers are just too low. In that situation, it makes sense to roll the dice and take your case to court.
At Surasky Law, we always discuss the pros and cons of litigating to trial. Sometimes, insurers make a last-minute offer to settle a case right before we go into the courtroom. Indeed, showing you believe in the strength of your case can sometimes be enough.
Contact Us to Learn More
Surasky Law has helped many injured victims pursue compensation for personal injuries. In a free consultation, we discuss the likelihood of you achieving success and what evidence we think might strengthen your claim. To schedule a time to meet, contact us.