If you’re about to dive head first into a personal injury claim, you may want to mentally prepare for a long period of negotiation or even a protracted trial. That being said, most cases don’t make that far. In fact, 95-96 percent of personal injury claims are resolved out-of-court in negotiated settlements.
Major Differences Between Civil and Criminal Trials
Criminal and civil trial procedures differ in one very important way: the burden of proof. In a criminal trial, the onus is on the prosecution, who must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Under this standard, the jury must be virtually certain that, given the evidence, there is only one possible outcome: that the defendant is guilty. If the jury has any (reasonable) doubts whatsoever, the defendant must be found not guilty. Only then can the court be certain that the presumption of innocence is upheld.
By contrast, in a civil court, the burden falls on the plaintiff to prove liability by a preponderance of evidence. Generally speaking this means that the plaintiff must prove that his claims are more likely to be true than false. This standard is far less strict than the reasonable doubt standard.
Now, you might think that you can handle a court case by yourself. Perhaps you have strong research skills or perhaps you think you can’t afford an attorney. Whatever the reason, it’s advisable that you retain a lawyer, ideally before the case even gets to court. In fact, it’s best to have an attorney by your side throughout the pretrial discovery and negotiation process, as your attorney can help you with compiling evidence and pressuring the insurance company (or defendant) into settling for the full value of your claim. Having a lawyer who is unafraid to take a case to court is necessary for applying pressure at the negotiating table. Insurance companies don’t want to go to trial (because of the costs), so when they know a lawyer is a capable litigator, they’re more likely to agree to a higher settlement.
Attorney J. Ransdell Keene has a long history of representing clients in court. For that reason, insurance companies know he is willing to take your case to trial and will be more likely to offer you a higher settlement amount.
Having a capable litigator by your side also increases your chances of winning in court, should you be one of the five percent to argue a civil claim before a trial judge or jury. And if you’re still worried about the money, don’t be. Here at the Law Offices of J. Ransdell Keene, we represent personal injury clients on a contingency fee basis. This means we will only accept payment if you get a settlement or if a court grants you an award for damages. You also don’t have to worry about fronting costs for court fees and other related charges.
It should be noted that, even if the initial negotiations reach an impasse and your attorney notifies the other party (the defendant or his insurance company) of an intent to sue, there’s still a good chance that your case won’t go to trial. Very often, personal injury cases are settled in what are known as pre-trial negotiations, often overseen by a court-appointed mediator. In these negotiations, your attorney and the defendant’s legal representative put forward whatever evidence and arguments they have in order to arrive at a reasonable settlement offer. This process can take anywhere from a few days to several years. In the end, the final result will depend on the amount of money you demand, the insurance company’s financial limitations, the strength of the evidence, and the terms of the defendant’s insurance policy.
If you are not able to resolve the matter through mediation, the next step would be a jury trial. Even then, many cases settle before the trial actually begins.
If you have questions about a personal injury matter, please contact the Law Offices of J. Ransdell Keene today.