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Will My Personal Injury Case Go to Court?

June 20, 2023

If you’re considering hiring a Seattle personal injury attorney, it’s likely that you’ve recently been injured and aren’t feeling your best as you deal with medical treatments and focus on your recovery. The idea of facing the stress of a courtroom may seem overwhelming in the aftermath of an accident, but according to personal injury attorneys in Seattle and elsewhere, very few personal injury victims ever have to face a courtroom. In fact, statistics shared by the Justice Department reveal that only about 3% of personal injury cases go to court in the United States, including in Washington. Instead, the vast majority of injury claims settle out of court through negotiations with the insurer of the party at fault for the injury.

While some injury victims actually prefer to “have their day in court” to achieve the sense of justice and closure they need to move on from a preventable injury caused by someone else’s actions, the majority of claimants in personal injury cases feel reassured to know that it’s unlikely that they will have to face the stress of a trial.

Will My Personal Injury Case Go to Court_

Why Do Most Personal Injury Cases Settle Out of Court?

Most states have a 2 to 6-year statute of limitations in place for personal injury lawsuits. Washington allows injury victims up to 3 years after an injury in which to file a lawsuit. This limit generally provides enough time for injury victims and their attorneys to first attempt multiple negotiations with the appropriate insurance company before resorting to courtroom litigation.

When it comes to personal injury claims, injury victims bear the burden of proving liability on the part of the person or entity at fault by a preponderance of the evidence. Proving liability requires evidence-based demonstration of the following:

  • That the party at fault owed a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent harm, such as a driver’s duty to obey traffic laws or a store owner’s duty to place “Wet Floor” signs after mopping up a spill
  • That the party at fault breached their duty through an act of negligence, recklessness, or purposeful wrongdoing
  • That the breach of duty directly caused the injury
  • That the injury victim suffered significant damages from the injury

Once evidence in a case clearly shows liability on the part of the person at fault for an injury and the damages caused by the injury have been calculated and presented in a demand letter to the appropriate insurance company, the insurance adjusters review the evidence. In most cases, the insurance company offers an out-of-court settlement. If they attempt to undervalue—or lowball—the claim, some back-and-forth negotiation typically results in a mutually acceptable settlement. If not—or if the insurance company continues to deny a valid claim—the plaintiff may choose to pursue the matter in court by filing a lawsuit within the timeframe allowed by the statute of limitations.

Cases may also settle out of court due to the following circumstances:

  • The lawyer assures the client that the settlement offered by the insurance company is comparable to the amount they’d likely win in court
  • The defendant understands that paying the asked-for amount in damages would cost less than a trial
  • The insurance company believes the plaintiff’s case would win in court

Hiring an attorney with a strong record of success in courtroom litigation within your jurisdiction is often enough to persuade a defendant’s insurance company to settle your case out of court.

When is a Personal Injury Case More Likely to Go to Court?

If the calculated amount of money in damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering compensation is very high, an insurance company may decide it’s worth taking the case before a judge and jury in the hopes of a jury award that’s less than the amount demanded. An insurer may also choose to deny a claim and face litigation if they don’t wish to set a precedent on settling the type of claim in the case or if they believe they have ample evidence that the plaintiff was actually at fault for their injury.

Lawsuits are complex, time-consuming, and involve filing fees, attorney’s fees, and other costs. Often, both sides of a personal injury case benefit from resolving the dispute outside of a courtroom.

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