Updated January 29, 2024

I Don’t Want to Go to Court: What Are My Options?

If you have experienced a personal injury by someone else, you may have been told that going to court is your only hope for recovering damages. However, you may have a lot of concerns about going to court: How long will it take to get to trial? How much will it cost? Will I have the time and energy I need to go to court while I’m recovering? Fortunately, you may have other legal avenues to pursue that can help you recover damages.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to Settle Out of Court?

Even if you choose to settle your case out of court, having a lawyer advising you is always a good idea. An experienced personal injury attorney can help determine whether you are getting the best settlement possible for your case. 

An attorney can also clarify all the terms in your settlement, including any contracts you must sign. When you sign a settlement offer, you may forfeit the right to additional compensation. Because this agreement is legally binding, you must ensure it reflects the highest possible compensation for your claim.

Is it Better to Go to Court or Settle? 

Every case is different, but there are some benefits to settling out of court. Going to court usually takes more time and money than reaching a settlement. Your court date may not occur for a year or more and can take several weeks to conclude. The attorney fees for that period can be significant. Additionally, trials can be very stressful for the victim, and the results can be unpredictable. For these reasons, many personal injury clients prefer negotiating out of court. 

However, there are also some advantages to going to court. For instance, the defendant is found liable or not liable in a trial. In a case such as medical malpractice, the plaintiff may feel a greater sense of justice knowing that a negligent doctor is publicly held accountable. Another benefit of going to trial is that the jury may award the plaintiff more money than a defendant would settle for. 

How Do I Know If I Should Go to Court? 

Whether you go to trial or prefer to settle, each path has risks and benefits. The best way to decide is to consult a personal injury attorney with experience in litigation and out-of-court settlements. They can review your case and help you determine the best course of action. 

What Are My Options to Settle Out of Court? 

Although your personal injury attorney should be prepared to go to trial, the good news is that most claims are settled out of court. Mediation and arbitration are two of the most common methods of reaching an agreement outside of court. 

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a legal process to settle disputes through a neutral third party (mediator). The mediator has no affiliation with either party. They attempt to solve the dispute by listening, participating, and offering a fair, objective solution. There is a difference between trial and mediation. Unlike at a trial, mediation will not take place in a courtroom. Instead, it takes place in a neutral location. Mediation typically happens when both parties are willing to try to come to an agreement without a trial. 

Unfortunately, it’s possible that you and the opposing party can’t agree on a settlement amount. At that time, you and your lawyer reconvene to discuss the next best steps. If mediation does not settle the case, proceeding to trial is next. Sometimes, there can be multiple mediation attempts to settle a case before going to trial. Sometimes, you must undergo mediation before taking a case to trial.  

What Is Arbitration? 

There is a difference between mediation and arbitration. Arbitration is more formal than mediation but less formal than the court process. Like mediation, arbitration occurs out of court, where a neutral arbitrator facilitates. Both parties will provide testimonies, are questioned under oath, and are cross-examined, much like in a trial. 

The arbitrator decides on whether to award damages or not. Their decision is typically final and enforceable. For example, suppose someone is injured in a car accident. Both drivers agree to pursue arbitration rather than going to court. During arbitration, each driver presents testimony and evidence, such as witness statements, photographs, and medical records, to a neutral third party. The arbitrator determines any compensation the at-fault driver owes to the victim. This decision is usually final and binding. 

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one have been the victim of a personal injury or accident, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham can help you determine the best course of action to recover damages and restore your life. Fill out our contact form or call us at 317-920-6400 for a free, no-obligation consultation. 

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