Understanding the Difference Between a Settlement and a Jury Verdict

October 4, 2022
Understanding the Difference Between a Settlement and a Jury Verdict

Who decides the case’s outcome in a personal injury case makes the difference between a jury verdict and a settlement? The major distinction between a jury verdict and a settlement is that the latter depends on the parties coming to an understanding outside of court.

A verdict in a court case is a ruling or judgment by the court. After a trial, a judge or jury renders a verdict. A settlement is an amicable and legally binding resolution agreement between two parties without the court’s assistance.

Sometimes a settlement is reached before a lawsuit is brought. However, in other situations, a settlement deal is reached after the injured party has filed a lawsuit.

Settlement Process 

A lawsuit is resolved through a settlement when both parties sign a contract, but agreements involve far more than just signatures. Both parties must cooperate and agree to reach a resolution. One of the most challenging aspects, depending on the age and injury of the person seeking compensation, is choosing an outcome that is expected to be sufficient for a lifetime.

The person must decide if the accident was caused by another party’s negligence after it occurs. If unsure, speaking with a lawyer may help decide a person’s best options.

In the event of a serious injury, it is advisable to obtain legal assistance, even if some people may choose to settle with the insurance provider directly. If the claimant does not have legal representation, the insurance company will make first proposals, often in the “lowball” range in an effort to pay as little as possible.

The injured party has the right to sue anyone who is at fault for the incident leading to harm. Their attorney will compile evidence and engage in negotiations with the defendant’s insurance provider to reach an ideal settlement.

Jury Verdict Process 

Civil courts hear personal injury cases. If parties are unable to reach a settlement, then the case will take to court to make a decision. 

Instead of the stricter standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” used in criminal court, the burden of proof is “preponderance of evidence” at trial. In essence, the jury’s decision will depend on whether the evidence demonstrates the defendant is to blame for the plaintiff’s injuries. The blame does not have to be 100%, and a jury will need to decide if the plaintiff established their burden of proof by showing the defendant was at fault in any way. 

The plaintiff’s counsel offers proof, including statements from eyewitnesses and experts. They demonstrate, where appropriate, why the defendant should be held responsible for their client’s harm. The defense lawyer will use defenses to argue their client is not accountable.

After both parties have presented their sides, the jury will then render a verdict of guilty or not guilty. If they find the defendant guilty, they will then determine the award. This is known as the jury verdict. 

When to Choose a Settlement vs. a Jury Verdict 

Personal Injury Jury Verdict Law

Both verdicts and settlements have benefits and drawbacks. To collect payment sooner, one may wish to come to a settlement agreement before going to trial. Additionally, by reaching a settlement, legal expenses can be minimized. A settlement also ensures a certain sum of money will be awarded as compensation.

The main argument for why some may choose a trial and, therefore, a possible jury verdict, is a higher amount result compared to accepting a settlement. 

Though, compared to an out-of-court settlement, a trial will cost more in legal bills and have a later payoff. At trial, there is no guarantee the claimant will win, and plaintiffs occasionally lose their claims. However, if they prevail, a judge or jury can decide to give you a greater payout than anticipated.

Is a Settlement Always More Preferable?

It is commonly known 98-99% of all civil cases filed result in a settlement before going to trial. This statistic implies preference to take a settlement. There is a reason that statistic is not 100%. 

If a party has evidence, such as medical bills, repair costs, etc. showing a specific amount and the other party is offering a settlement substantially lower than these amounts, then a trial might be ideal in these situations because a jury will likely award the exact amount (or over) the party is showing. 

The majority of jurors listen carefully to the testimony during the trial. They often debate the evidence until everyone is convinced that they understand how the accident occurred. Judges will advise the jury that they must rigorously follow the law in their decision-making. Even if they disagree with the law, they must follow it exactly as it is given to them and must not allow emotion to influence their decisions. 

Nevertheless, human nature tells us that jurors will, at least occasionally, follow their hearts when deliberating on the facts during a trial, particularly in cases involving personal injuries. Jurors will base their decision on common sense and will be influenced by human nature.

This play into human nature will commonly cause the jury verdict to be higher than what the defendant’s counsel offered in pre-trial negotiations. It is not always the case a jury verdict will be higher, but it is a risk that many will explore, especially in cases where injuries are substantial, and there is clear evidence of costs. 

How to Decide What to Choose? 

In many personal injury situations, settling for a sum of money that is guaranteed is preferable to taking a chance on a jury trial that might not provide a positive result. An experienced lawyer can, however, provide advice regarding when it might be advisable to file a case to obtain a jury verdict and when a settlement might be a better choice. The plaintiff will always have the final say, but an experienced personal injury lawyer can offer their legal insight and discuss precedents that may be relevant.

If you are dealing with a personal injury case, contact or call one of our experienced personal injury lawyers at Graves McLain at 918-359-6600.

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