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Nathaniel Fick
Nathaniel Fick
Attorney • (410) 321-6000

When Does it Make Sense to Go to Trial, and When Should I Just Settle?


Although many people assume that personal injury lawsuits frequently go to trial, the opposite is actually the case. According to TheLawDictionary.org, 95-96 percent of personal injury cases are settled before trial, and 90 percent of the cases that do go to trial don’t end up with a favorable result, although the odds are a little better in front of a judge than in front of a jury.

So when should you settle, and when should you go to trial?

Advantages of Settling

The main reason that most cases settle out of court is the desire to avoid the prohibitive expense involved in litigation. Trial lawyer fees and the cost of expert witnesses, depositions, travel, and extra time spent add up, but most of these expenses can be reduced , and some eliminated entirely by settling before trial.

Taking a case to trial is also very stressful for many people, who do not relish the idea of having their injury as well as details of their lives played out in open court. When a case settles out of court, the details are kept private, but if it goes to trial, the court documents become public record open to anyone’s examination.

The terms of a settlement are put in writing, agreed to by both parties, and very predictable compared to trying a case in front of a jury, where the results are often extremely uncertain. There is no such thing as a “slam dunk.”  However sure one might be, there is always that chance – even if only described as 1%, or 3% of losing. When a case is settled out of court it is officially over; were the case to go to trial and a successful verdict,  the losing party  may appeal a verdict or court decision and drag out an already long process. There is also the chance of an appeal resulting in a retrial, with all of the attendant additional time and expense.

When is Going to Trial a Viable Option?

Although settling may seem like the easy way out, sometimes settlement offers are so unfair to one side there is really no choice but to take the case to trial, especially if the plaintiff won’t receive sufficient compensation to cover all his damages.

If certain aspects of your case affect society as a whole, suing can make an important point. If the case challenges Constitutional limitations or concerns a fundamental right, taking it to trial may create precedent and potentially change public policy, things that a settlement agreement will not.

Regardless of the statistics, the best way to succeed is to prepare from the very beginning for trial.  The successful outcome of any case depends upon the quality and quantity of admissible evidence which can be brought to trial.  Cases well prepared often settle.  If the decision is made to try the case, it has the benefit of being well prepared, thus maximizing the likelihood of successful outcome in trial.


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  1. jc says:
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    Medical malpractice cases are among the cases that plaintiffs should seriously consider settling before going to trial. In Ohio, a malpractice plaintiff has only about a 15% chance of winning at trial, and in half of those cases with a plaintiff verdict, the award is less than the court costs so the plaintiff, though victorious, still receives nothing. In medical malpractice, you have to prove two things, first that there was negligence and second that the negligence caused the injury.

  2. John Bratt says:
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    But without trials, being a lawyer is awfully boring!