If you have been injured in NC by the negligence of another, you may be wondering if you should settle your personal injury claim or proceed to trial. While this post cannot answer that question for you, it attempts to explain the pros and cons of each path.
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NC Personal Injury Law Overview
NC is a contributory negligence state which means that the victim must not be at fault (even 1% ) for their injury in order to recover on their claim. If the victim is not at fault, they can recover their medical expenses, missed time from work, pain & suffering as well as punitive damages if the defendant’s actions were “willful and wanton” (this is rare).
Victims generally have to file a claim with the insurance company’s injury claim adjuster in order to request compensation for their injury. The insurance company’s adjuster can either approve, deny or delay making a decision on the claim.
In either of the above scenarios, the insurance company’s adjuster has control over how much money you are offered, what the insurance company will pay for and how timely your injury claim will be handled.
Delay by an insurance adjuster or rushing to approve a claim to avoid paying for all needed medical treatment are common insurance adjuster tactics. On the other hand, the adjuster working on your case may only have so much bargaining authority before they get out of their depth.
Settle or Go to Trial?
An insurance adjuster’s low-ball offers or delay can frustrate the most saintly of men, but before deciding to go to trial, you need to consider:
Time – Taking a case to court will take substantially more time than settling pretrial. In addition, much more information will be required to prove your claim. Going to court introduces a judge, jurors and opposing counsel into your case. If you are out of work and need funds, this time may or may not be something you can tolerate. On the flip side, by taking your case to trial, you are showing the insurance company that you are dedicated to maximizing your recovery for the long haul.
Location – Every county in NC has a different demographic, political climate and socioeconomic class. Thus, the location of your accident (and where your trial will be held) is very important to your decision to settle or go to trial. Some counties in NC are favorable to plaintiffs while others are more hostile. Having a lawyer who knows your jury pool can help you decide on the best way to proceed in your county.
Expense – Court costs, deposition expenses, and expert witness fees are just a few of the added expenses that come with litigation. These expenses may reduce your award to less than what you would have received if you settled pretrial. However, in certain cases, the expenses incurred at trial (such as expert witness opinion testimony) can add significant value to a personal injury case.
Stress – Trials are stressful. A trial subjects the parties to inquiry into their lives and actions that may otherwise never happen for an individual. Trial can also open the door for the injured party to walk away with nothing even though they have been injured by the fault of the negligent party.
Maximum Recovery – What is the best way to attain maximum recover for a NC Personal Injury case? Some personal injury attorneys believe that the only way to attain maximum recovery is by going to trial while others believe just the opposite because of the time and expense involved in trials. In reality, the answer is, it depends.
Some cases will receive the highest settlement when settling before trial and other cases will have to go all the way to a jury to attain the best recovery. Also, in NC, after a court case is filed but before trial, the court will order a mediated settlement conference. Many cases settle during this settlement conference, but not all. So, the decision to go to trial should be made with the thought in mind that the case will go to trial.
Time, location, expense, stress and maximizing recovery are all factors that should be considered carefully before making a decision to take a NC Personal Injury case to trial. Having a NC Personal Injury Lawyer on your side to give you advice regarding the best course of action will help!
The Bishop Law Firm represents injured clients in Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Fayetteville, Smithfield, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Chapel Hill, Roanoke Rapids, Louisburg and other areas in North Carolina. Our firm does not get paid unless you win and we offer free case reviews, (919) 615-3095 . We wish you a speedy recovery!