One of the most common questions trial attorneys are asked is, “Will my case have to go to trial?” The answer is dependent on any number of factors. The reality is that your case must be prepared as though you are going to trial. It is only with complete and thorough preparation that you can be assured of your best opportunity at a just and fair result.
What are some of the factors that can influence the decision? The first one is the relative strength of the liability in your case. Liability refers to the defendant’s fault. Can you prove the
defendant individual or company acted below the standard of care? In other words, can you prove that they made a mistake? Does the documentation in your case clearly expose a failure on their part? Do witnesses generally agree or disagree about the facts of your accident? Does an expert believe there are any reasonable explanations for the way the defendant behaved? If so, what are the strongest responses? If your case is one based on medical malpractice, was the medical provider’s decision based on his/her judgment? Did you know that in New York, where a medical provider chooses between two acceptable alternatives using his/her best judgment and there is a bad result, it is not considered malpractice? Each fact, record, witness statement, photograph and other piece of evidence must be reviewed and weighed in light of the legal arguments available.
The second factor that can influence a trial decision is the value of the damages in your case. Damages can include monetary sums to compensate you for your physical pain and suffering, permanency of your injuries, loss of enjoyment of life, past, present and future lost wages, medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, future costs of care and sums to compensate your spouse for their loss of your support, companionship and society, among others.
A final factor that can affect whether your matter goes to trial is the relative cost/benefit analysis. What does that mean? There are significant costs involved in taking your case to trial. Experts must be paid to attend trial and, often, travel to the court location and cancel their patients or workday schedules. Additional costs of exhibits, obtaining certified documents and paying additional required witness fees also add in. Time also becomes a cost consideration. Just because your case is ready for trial does not mean the court and your judge are available to hear your trial. Plaintiffs can regularly learn that the court cannot put the case on its calendar for a trial until up to 12-18 months after the parties say they are ready. There is a cost to waiting for a trial date that must be weighed against any offers of settlement made now.
As you can imagine, the injured individual and the potential defendant often disagree about the degree of fault in the case and/or the measures of damages. Where parties can reach a compromise on these issues, the claims can be resolved. Where one or both parties are entrenched in their positions, a trial is much more likely.
You are probably questioning whether there are any statistics detailing how many cases actually get to the inside of a courtroom. In the last decade, the number of civil cases reaching a trial has declined steadily. Current research shows that 90% or more of cases resolve without the necessity of a trial. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a settlement is guaranteed, or even likely. Just because a lawsuit is filed does not mean it will result in an offer of settlement. This is why it is so important that your case be prepared with the same diligence as if it were going to trial. Without thorough preparation and an attorney with a reputation of having significant experience handling the type of case at issue, you may never garner the attention of carriers and defense attorneys with large volumes of cases to get to the point where you are having a substantive discussion of the merits of your claims. Your case must be positioned to get the attention it deserves.
Our office can review the relevant facts, medical and other records, damages and witness information and provide my best guidance on the relative likelihood of success of your case. If you need to go to trial, you will be ready. If the office takes on your case, it will be worked up to get the attention it needs so you can have the opportunity at your best chance for a fair and just result that adequately compensates you for your losses. Of course, there are no crystal balls. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. What matters is that your attorney is ready, willing and capable to fight your greatest fight for you. And that would be my honor.