When you think about a personal injury lawsuit, you might imagine a trial in a courtroom filled with attorneys, jurors, spectators, and a judge. Whenever a lawsuit is filed, a trial is a possible outcome, but it is not a certainty. In Florida, the vast majority of lawsuits are resolved before trial through a settlement between the parties. Often cases end when the parties reach an agreement during pre-trial proceedings.
You might be curious about whether your personal injury case will go all the way to trial. Consulting with your attorney is always best when you have questions about your case. If you believe your case might head to trial, you would be wise to find a law firm with a board certified trial lawyer on staff. Only 1% of all Florida attorneys have received board certification as trial lawyers. We are proud to say that at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers have a board-certified civil trial lawyer on our team!
While many lawsuits can be resolved through settlement, this article explains some common reasons why a personal injury lawsuit might proceed to trial.
What is a trial?
A trial is a legal mechanism for a judge and jury to resolve a dispute between parties to a lawsuit. A jury is charged with making factual findings, while the judge presiding over a case decides questions of law. Each party has an opportunity to tell their side of the story by presenting evidence and questioning witnesses. Trials can be unpredictable and expensive, but generally follow the same format, as follows:
- Jury selection: During jury selection, sometimes called voir dire, the attorneys for both sides have an opportunity to question the prospective jurors and ultimately select the jury that will hear the entire case.
- Opening statements: At this point in trial the attorneys for each party will provide the jury with a roadmap of all the evidence that will be presented during the trial.
- Witness testimony and presentation of evidence: Both the plaintiff and defendant are allowed to call witnesses and present evidence through direct examination, cross-examination, and re-direct examination. This portion of the trial can take several days, or even weeks, depending on the complexity of the case.
- Closing arguments: When all of the evidence has been heard by the jury, the attorneys for both sides are permitted to make final arguments to the jury to urge them to accept their version of the facts.
- Jury deliberations: After closing arguments, the jury members take time to evaluate all of the evidence and render their verdict.
- Verdict: The final decision of the jury is called a verdict. The jury’s verdict can include a determination about which party is responsible, if at all. Some jury verdicts also determine the amount of damages to be awarded to a plaintiff.
Although trials generally follow the same basic steps, there are a variety of reasons why a case might proceed all the way to trial.
Unsuccessful Settlement Negotiations
In some cases, both sides agree about liability, but they might disagree about how much money the injured party is entitled to receive. A negligent defendant’s insurance company can be motivated to undervalue your claim, limit financial exposure, and offer you as little as possible to resolve the case. This is why it is important to work with an experienced injury lawyer, who will fight with insurance companies to ensure that you are offered a fair amount to resolve the case. Still, some defendants, or their insurance companies, may refuse to increase settlement offers.
When settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, you will be left with no choice but to proceed to trial. Working with an attorney familiar with trial practice is essential in these types of cases. If trial becomes inevitable, Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers have a board-certified trial lawyer ready to take your case all the way.
Bad Faith by the Insurance Company
When insurance companies intentionally mistreat you or egregiously refuse to offer fair compensation for your injuries, you may be able to pursue another legal cause of action called insurance bad faith. Generally speaking, bad faith occurs when an insurance company undertakes no good faith effort to resolve a claim. Rather than dealing honestly, the insurance company may act deceptively or unfairly in an attempt to save money.
Insurance companies may be held accountable at a trial when they act this poorly. Your lawyer will be able to advise you as to whether you have a potential bad faith claim. Often, a bad faith lawsuit seeks damages for your underlying injuries and losses and compensation for the mistreatment and unfair dealing you suffered because of the insurance company.
When the other party in your case does not accept responsibility for causing your injuries, and settlement isn’t possible, you have a liability dispute that could proceed to trial. Cases involving liability disputes are arguably the most common types of personal injury claims that proceed to trial. This is because the defendant is refusing to accept responsibility for your injuries and may plan to raise a number of legal defenses.
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There are no guarantees when a case heads to trial because you are placing the final decision in the hands of the jury and judge. Always remember to consult with your attorney when you are deciding whether to take your case to trial.
What factors should you consider before heading to trial?
If you are wrestling with the decision of whether to accept a settlement offer or proceed to trial, you should never make your decision unless you have consulted with an attorney. Trials are often risky, but may ultimately have great rewards. However, settling your case through an agreement can provide certainty, security, and finality. A well-seasoned personal injury lawyer can help you weigh the risks and potential outcomes for deciding on trial or settlement to resolve your injury claim.
We at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers have over 30 years of experience in Florida advocating for injured clients and achieving results through settlement or, when necessary, through trial. If you have been injured and someone else is to blame, you should retain Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers to fight for the compensation you are entitled to receive. Call us today and Demand More!