If I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit, Will I Have to Go to Court?

An empty, brown-paneled courtroom with flags

Very few personal injury claims and lawsuits actually make it to trial. In fact, a lawsuit is the second resort to more flexible and inexpensive options like negotiations.

The reason that many people assume they will be going to trial when they file an injury lawsuit lies in misconceptions about the justice system. The legal process is quite complex, with many intertwining categories of legal procedure. In the initial stages of a personal injury claim, there may not be any formal legal process at all, in fact, but the threat of legal action nevertheless makes interactions between parties structured and strategic.

To learn more about when and why certain injury lawsuits may proceed to trial, read on.

The Difference Between a Claim and a Complaint/Lawsuit

The first key concept to digest is that the vast majority of injury cases do not start out with an actual lawsuit being filed. Lawsuits are formal civil actions entered into the court system that set in motion a chain of events that can eventually lead up to a trial and judgment. On the other hand, an injury claim is something most often handled internally between the plaintiff and the defendant’s insurer.

To clarify the difference between the two, here is a description of how an injury case might progress:

  • A victim is injured and wishes to pursue compensation they feel they are entitled to
  • A demand letter is sent to the defendant’s insurer, stating the circumstances of the claim as well as the full amount demanded
  • The two sides negotiate a settlement by exchanging information and counter-offers
  • If a settlement cannot be reached, alternative dispute resolution options like mediation may be used
  • If neither side can agree at this point, the plaintiff may file a formal complaint against the defendant which is accompanied by a summons, indicating that a civil suit has officially begun
  • A deposition is called where witnesses testify before the trial; certain motions like a request for summary judgment may also be filed at this time
  • In rare instances, the suit will proceed to a jury trial; either side still has the opportunity to form a settlement agreement at this point

Why Few Injury Lawsuit Cases Make It to Trial

Simply put, trial litigation is expensive, time-consuming, stressful and above all else, risky. Either side could have outcomes far worse than any settlement offers would have lead to, and the opportunity for appeals means that the final results of a trial — including the final damages award — could take years to actually materialize.

Basically, both sides of the dispute have more control over the outcome at a lower cost if they remain in the settlement negotiation phase. They also have a strong motivation to attempt filing motions like a motion to dismiss in order to stop the case before it reaches trial.

However, some defendants refuse to offer an acceptable settlement offer during negotiations, forcing the case to go to trial in order to achieve a just outcome for the plaintiff.

If you have been the victim of an injury and are weighing your options for settlement and trial, realize that your case does not always have to be a drawn out affair. You can enlist the help of an experienced, knowledgeable New Jersey personal injury lawyer to receive guidance on the most strategic, beneficial moves available to you given a situation.

Contact the Law Offices of Peter N. Davis now, and you will receive a free consultation for your case and could potentially start the claims process today.