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Should I settle my case or go to court?

If you want those responsible for your injury to be forced to pay, you need to understand your legal rights. You have a right to prosecute someone for a clear mistake, negligence, or incompetence. While you may understandably be very angry for what happened, you have to think legally. Whether it was an accident or a medicine mix up or an on-the-job accident, be prepared for a fight.

A fight does not mean you'll be going into a twelve round boxing match. You may think the first offer you get is very fair, that you should settle fast and be done. Or, you may consider going to court to maximize your damages and punishing those responsible in a court of law.

The "settle fast" idea is flawed simply because you can almost always get more than a first offer. There is nothing wrong with reaching a settlement, but don't give up once you see the number. Be aware that you might be able to get much more. And this first offer is rarely off the table during the negotiation. At this stage, you definitely need to consult with a lawyer. If the insurer has tried contacting you and settling before you even have a lawyer, they are likely hoping to settle early for less than the value of your injury.

Settling early can also be bad if you do not know the full scope of an injury. Say your spouse was injured in an accident, has a broken leg and bruised rib, and will miss work for six months. She then gets an offer from the insurer, prior to a fully understanding the injury. It can take months to understand the full effects of something like a car accident. If you take this offer – and it turns out she suffered trauma or has another undocumented injury – you may be out of luck.

Going to court has some flaws too. This is a personal injury blog, but let's be honest: you want proper compensation for you, not your lawyer. If you go to court, you stand to pay your lawyer more money. If you get a reasonable offer, remember that most lawsuits are settled before court. You may get somewhat less, but you get the money immediately and your lawyer gets less of a cut. If you go to court, you can expect to pay 10-15% more of the compensation to your lawyer.

Going to court can be good if you are not getting fair offers. Trust your lawyer here. If you are just being compensated for the injury and lost work time – and not any emotional trauma or pain and suffering – you stand to get much more going to court. If you go through pain and suffering, for example, this can swing the case decidedly in your favor and mean much better compensation. If you've been in pain for weeks if not months because of the car accident injury, you stand to double if not triple your compensation.

It can be hard to think with a clear head when you or a loved one is going through an injury. The important thing is not to rush this process, to focus on getting better, to fully grasp your mental effects, and to listen to your lawyer. Hire a good lawyer too, one who can explain your options, increase your compensation, and fight for your rights. It's more than worth it.