With 1.3 million people dying in car crashes each year and millions more experiencing serious injuries and expensive car repair bills, it's surprising that the courts are overrun with auto accident cases. Yet the majority of cases don't make it to court and resolve one way or the other long before that stage. Understanding the reasons why many people choose to find an alternative will help you decide if you want to go through with your auto accident lawsuit.
In many cases, both parties in a car accident are perfectly happy with the compensation offered by the insurance companies and feel like all their medical bills and vehicle repairs are well covered. These are usually minor accidents where no permanent and lasting injuries or disabilities arise from the collision. When you fall into this category, there's no specific need to go through a lawsuit just to determine fault and get a judgement. However, compensation offered by insurance providers is rarely fair when it comes to victims who are disabled or permanently injured, especially if another party was clearly at fault.
After you start your court case filings and make your intent clear to the other party or parties, they can offer you an out-of-court settlement to compensate you for pain and suffering, medical costs, lost wages, and anything else you request or they want to offer. By taking the settlement, most states will consider you to be closing the case and forfeiting your right to sue in the future. This means if you underestimate your injuries and take a small settlement now, you can't get any more help if you suddenly become more seriously impacted later. Taking a settlement is common because it saves time and energy for both sides while still involving a monetary exchange.
It costs quite a bit of money to start the initial filings for a court case and even more to bring in a lawyer and complete the case. The losing party pays for all court costs in many areas, but even winners can end up losing some of their award money to legal fees. If you're already falling behind on your bills because of lost income after your car accident, a settlement is a faster way to get the money you need to stay afloat. Some auto accident lawyers are happy to work for delayed payment after the case is decided, but others require you to pay at least a deposit upfront.
Going to court is a little like gambling with your car accident case. Winning is likely to reward you with a greater amount of compensation than you would receive from a settlement or the insurance company, but losing leaves you spending money on court costs and possibly getting nothing from the insurance company either depending on state laws. Many car accident victims simply aren't prepared to take the risk of losing and prefer to find another way to settle out of court or negotiate more help from their insurer.
On top of the gambling factor of going to court, some states raise the stakes further by using a strict sense of fault in auto accidents. Drivers who contribute even 1% of the fault for an accident lose their rights to sue for anything at all in states with total fault requirements, while other areas limit the amount of money you can request based on your involvement in the accident. Determine the exact rules you're working with before going to court and losing because you made a tiny accident that gave you enough fault to interfere with your case.