Updated May 17, 2022

Should I Try to Reach a Settlement Agreement or Go to Trial?

Getting into a car accident is a life-altering experience. You may endure physical injuries along with mental and emotional trauma. It’s normal to be in shock and experience stress after an accident. Car accidents can also bring financial and legal consequences. You may have to cover a multitude of expenses like vehicle repairs, medical bills, and even make up for loss of income.

If you have been in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may want to pursue a car accident settlement or court trial. If you decide to pursue a lawsuit, let’s look at what happens when a car accident goes to trial.

Car Accident Court Process: Settlement or Trial?

The decision to either settle or go to trial varies per case. The parties involved have a strong incentive to settle in order to avoid extensive legal fees and an exhausting trial.

When it comes to your personal injury case, choosing whether to pursue a settlement or go to trial is a difficult decision. We recommend discussing your case with an experienced, qualified attorney who can help guide you.

Why Pursue a Settlement?

The quickest way to resolve a legal dispute is to reach a settlement agreement. When both parties agree to settle, they can spare themselves the time, effort, and money spent proving or defending their cases in a courtroom.

A car accident settlement is an agreement between a victim and a negligent party or insurance company. The agreement outlines an expectation for a potential outcome of payment and listed demands. Settlements can be either a structured settlement with a payment plan or a lump sum. Working with an experienced attorney to write a settlement and negotiate payment can help meet your car accident settlement wants.

Most of the time, parties will settle civil disputes outside of court before they reach trial. If the defendant meets the financial proposal from the plaintiff, then the conflict can likely be resolved from there.

When Do Cases Go to Trial?

A case goes to trial when a dispute fails to resolve and both parties desire to continue pursuing the case. One or both of the parties will not agree to the settlement or the counteroffer. Taking a case to trial is taxing, expensive, and time-consuming. A typical trial can last 2 or 3 months, while others can take years to resolve.

How Often Do Car Insurance Claims Go to Court?

In reality, it is very rare that a car accident case makes it to trial. Most insurance companies want to resolve a claim during a settlement.

Why Car Accidents Go to Trial

You may consider pursuing a car accident court process for two main reasons:
• You believe the settlement is unfair
• A decision of who is at fault cannot be agreed upon

An insurance company may want to undercompensate you. Outright, unfair payouts can be settled in court and determined by a jury. If, for example, somebody totaled your car worth $120,000, yet the insurance company compensates you $3,500, the compensation amount is unfair to the point of taking the case to trial.

If you believe you are not at fault for the car accident, yet the insurance company wants to place blame on you, you can take a trial to court. You could possibly be entitled to even more compensation if the other party is completely at fault.

Settlement vs Trial

There is the obvious point that settlements take much less time, energy, and money. Though timelines for both settlements and trials vary from case to case, settlements typically take a much shorter time to complete.

However, if a negotiation cannot be agreed upon or if there is clearly a need to go to court, pursuing a trial may be the best option to get the compensation you deserve.

Work with an attorney to help decide which option is best for your particular case. You could find yourself in a situation where a settlement could even be decided upon in the midst of a trial.

Who is Involved in a Car Accident Trial?

Those involved in a car accident court process are:

• The plaintiff: you, the person requesting the trial
• The defendant: the opposing party, who is either the insurance company or the person from which you would like compensation
• Your attorney
• Opposing counsel: the defendant’s attorney (if they have hired counsel)
• The judge
• The jury

A court hearing for a car accident can be overwhelming and intimidating. Having confidence in your car accident attorney will make all the difference while in the courtroom.

Car Accident Trial Process

The litigation process of car accident lawsuits take place in five steps:

• File a complaint and send it to the defendant
• The defendant sends a response to your complaint
• During the discovery period, evidence from both parties is analyzed
• A trial takes place
• An appeal can take place if necessary; such as, if one of the parties is unsatisfied with the trial results

What Court Handles Car Accidents?

In Indiana, a majority of personal injury cases and car accident trials will be filed in either the circuit court of superior court. The court can either be in the location of the accident or where the parties live. In Marion County, there are nine different small claims courts, one in each of the townships.

During Trial

Going to trial and being in the courtroom can be an overwhelming process. Car accident cases in court are full of legal jargon, and the physical courtroom adds certain pressure to an already stressful case. Having an experienced lawyer on your side to be with you through the process can alleviate some of the pressure and stress that comes with a physical trial. Let’s look at what happens when a car accident goes to trial.

Jury Selection & Trial Date

A panel of jurors will be randomly selected. They will be asked a series of questions to reduce potential bias from the group. Once the jury is fully established, a trial date will be scheduled. Once the date is set, your car accident attorney will collect evidence and witness testimonies to build your case.

Opening Statements

The plaintiff and defense will both present their arguments. Each argument will frame the basis on why each party sees fault in the other and defend their stance.

Plaintiff and Defendant Present Their Cases

Your attorneys will then present your case as to why you believe you are in the right. During this time, your car accident lawyers will present evidence and witnesses. Evidence may include photographs, videos, medical records, personal diary entries showing your pain and suffering, vehicle repair bills, and more. The goal is to show, without reasonable doubt, that your case is in the right.

The defendant will then be able to present their case. Their case will follow closely with ours; they will present their own evidence and witness statements.

Closing Arguments

Both the plaintiff and defendant will give closing statements summarizing their case. This is both sides’ chance to convince the jury their argument is the strongest.


The jury then decides the verdict, or outcome, of the case. Deliberation can last a few hours to multiple days.

Reaching the Verdict

Once the jury has made a decision, the jury gives the verdict to the judge who presents the verdict to the parties.

Working with a Lawyer

The experienced car accident lawyers at Wilson Kehoe Winingham are seasoned in trial settings. Bringing car accidents to trial can be a long and intense process. A lawyer can help you build an argument by using resources and experience you may not have access to. With those resources, we can build a strong case for you. With preparation and experience, a car accident attorney will be able to represent you to your advantage in court.

Insurance companies are also more likely to negotiate before a trial even starts. Having legal representation during a settlement process can help you receive fair compensation and may save you time, energy, and money.

What Happens After Trial?

At the conclusion of the trial, you will either win or lose the case. If you win, you will start to collect the agreed-upon compensation. But there is always the possibility the defendant will want to file an appeal.

If you lose, then you will not receive compensation and the case will close. However, if you do not agree on the verdict, there is the possibility of filing for an appeal. The appeal would challenge the verdict.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today

The safest way to gauge whether a trial is right for you is to discuss the matter with an attorney. If you believe your car crash claim should go to court, consult with a car accident attorney before moving forward. But whether your case settles or proceeds to trail, contact an Indianapolis personal injury lawyer from Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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