After a serious injury, you might consider filing a claim with the other party’s insurance or even a personal injury lawsuit. While you have your pick of the crop when it comes to injury attorneys, not all injury attorneys are trial attorneys.
It is true that most injury cases settle outside of court. However, you want an attorney that is certified and has trial experience under their belt. Regardless of how likely you are to settle out of court, you give yourself distinct advantages when you hire an attorney that will go to court and has gone to court to get compensation for their clients.
Therefore, before you hire any attorney, regardless of their settlement success record, consider why you should pick an experienced trial lawyer first.
A vast majority of injury claims settle before their trial date, but that does not mean all cases settle out of court. Some cases go to court and settle mid-trial. Other cases settle before an injury lawsuit is even filed. Do not assume your case will settle right away or even mid-trial.
Also, consider what would force your case to go to trial in the first place – and why it is pivotal, you have an attorney with experience ready to take it that far.
Sometimes, the insurance company will outright refuse to settle. They may claim that you waited too long to file a claim, seek medical treatment, or dispute the facts of the case entirely. While this is rare to have an outright denial, it does happen.
When the insurance company refuses to settle or discuss compensation, you need an attorney ready to respond with a complaint to the court and take the case to trial to get compensation for your injuries.
Most cases that go to trial do so because of a disagreement over what the case is worth. It is natural for the insurance company to protect their bottom line, and they do so by reducing compensation as much as they can in an injury case. They may dispute medical costs, lost wages, or even your diagnosis.
When an insurance company continually downplays your injuries or offers a settlement too low to cover your damages, your attorney needs to be ready to take the case to court and receive a jury or judge award instead. An experienced attorney will know how strong your case’s evidence is, and when it is justified, they will take that evidence to trial and push for the settlement you deserve – not what the insurer thinks you deserve.
In some instances, the insurance company agrees to settle, but they dispute liability. They may try to push some of the liability onto you so that they can reduce the compensation through comparative negligence.
In Connecticut, modified comparative negligence is a law that only allows you to collect compensation if you are not at fault more than 51 percent. Insurance companies may try to push some of the fault onto you do reduce settlement, because the law requires that your compensation is reduced based on the percentage of fault assigned to you.
When liability is disputed, or insurance companies try to push comparative negligence too far, an attorney may need to take the case to trial and let a judge decide who was at fault and whether comparative negligence applies.
There are two primary reasons an insurance company is more likely to settle with an attorney that has trial experience:
Trials are risky for insurance companies, but if an attorney has a track record of never taking a case to trial, they are not going to offer fair compensation – because the risk of going to trial is low for them. The only way to force an insurance company into a fair settlement is sometimes taking them to court. If they are convinced they have no risk of going to court, they will offer less than what you deserve, which only hurts you in the end – even if they are willing to settle quickly for less than you need.
Insurance companies have a running list of state attorneys who they have gone up against and who have gone to trial. Therefore, they will know the experience of the attorney you hire immediately, and your settlement will reflect on that.
On the opposite spectrum, if the insurance company is presented a claim by a lawyer they know goes to trial and will, they are more likely to settle and for the amount you deserve. This is because no insurance company will risk getting stuck with a large jury verdict – because jury verdicts are highly unpredictable.
If the insurance company knows your attorney is ready to go to trial, they are more likely to conduct negotiations and find a settlement before the trial date occurs.
If a lawyer representing your injury case does not have trial experience or take cases to trial, they will have a harder time finding the true value of your case. Your case is not only worth what your damages are, but what a jury is likely to give you if the case goes to trial. When an attorney does not go to trial or has not gone for a long time, they are not up to date on jury verdict trends, and they do not know how a jury would handle your case if it did go to trial.
You rely on your injury attorney to tell you how much your case is worth, and you want an attorney that bases their evaluation, not on damages, but what a jury would give you.
Aside from getting a fair settlement and potentially a faster one, there are other benefits to hiring an experienced trial attorney over one that settles all cases out of court.
Some victims are afraid to hire a trial attorney because they think that will cost them more. Personal injury attorneys typically work on a contingency basis, which means they do not recover unless they win a settlement for you. Therefore, even if they took your case to court, you do not have attorney’s fees until they recover damages.
A personal injury attorney, in general, is experienced with injury cases. A trial attorney can tell you at the beginning of your interview if you have a case worth pursuing because they know how strong the case would be if it does escalate to trial. If you are unlikely to win out of court and in a trial setting, they may tell you it is not worth the time from their experience.
If an attorney feels your case is strong enough and knows it would win at court, they will be able to use that evidence to push negotiations in your favor with the insurance company.
As stated before, you will get a fair and faster settlement when you have an attorney that the insurance company knows will go to trial. If that attorney has faced the insurance company before, the insurance company will settle quicker if that attorney was successful in their last claim.
With a trial attorney comes a powerful investigative team. After all, an attorney takes a case to trial they want to win that case. Therefore, they will have investigators, assistants, and experts who examine evidence and work to prove your case – making it more likely you will get a higher settlement.
Your attorney, regardless of trial experience, should have experience dealing with insurance companies. You want one that has experience dealing with the insurer you are going up against too because then that means the insurance company knows your attorney’s reputation and will work to avoid trial.
Even if you are not sure whether you have a case or not, meet with an experienced trial attorney in your area. Case evaluations are confidential, and you are under no obligation to hire an attorney that you consult with. Also, a consultation is an excellent opportunity to get to know an attorney, see if you have a case, and get an idea of what your settlement would be worth if you were to pursue it.