When clients contact a prospective car accident lawyer during an initial consultation, they want to know as much as possible about the legal process. Since they have a financial need, they want to know how difficult it will be to get the compensation they need. They know that the legal process will not be quick and easy, but they are interested in knowing the lengths they must go to to get a settlement check.
One common question is whether a car accident case will go to court. The answer to that is going to court is very rare for car accident victims. However, you can file a lawsuit and go to a jury trial if that is what it takes to get the money you are due.
Car Accidents in St. Louis
Anyone who drives in the St. Louis metro area knows there are accident risks around every turn. From drivers who roll through stop signs to those who speed down I-64, weaving through traffic, accidents can happen at any moment.
If someone else causes your crash and you suffer injuries, you might imagine you’ll have to head into court in Clayton or downtown. The premise of testifying in a courtroom in front of a jury can be intimidating, and some people might hesitate to pursue a case.
The good news is there is much your St. Louis car accident lawyer can do before your case ever makes it to court.
Insurance Companies Usually Want to Avoid Trial
To understand why a trial in your personal injury case is rare, you need to know how insurance companies work and their biggest fears in a car accident claim. Insurance companies try to minimize their settlement payments and legal expenses to make money.
An insurance company will take in premium payments from policyholders. They invest that money in stocks and bonds to achieve a return on investment. The premiums sit in an account, earning money until the company pays funds to clients through settlement checks or jury awards. Any money the insurance company manages to keep and grow becomes part of its profits.
Insurance Companies Incur Expenses When a Case Goes to Trial
Premiums minus payments form only part of the profit formula for insurance companies. They also have several expenses that they need to pay. For example, their army of adjusters draws paychecks out of the insurance company’s account. The insurance company also invests in technology, so they can rapidly assess the value of your claim shortly after receiving it.
Another expense that the insurance company must pay is for their lawyers.
To defend lawsuits, insurance companies will:
- Use their in-house lawyers as defense attorneys
- Hire an insurance defense firm to represent them in court
Insurance Companies Foot the Bill for Their Own Lawyer
Either way, the insurance company incurs expenses when they do not settle your case, and it goes to court. If they are using their lawyers, they have limited capacity. If the insurance company’s attorneys have their full capacity filled, they will need to hire money lawyers.
Insurance company defense does not work the same way as the plaintiff’s side lawyers. When you hire a personal injury attorney for your case, they take cases on a contingency basis. Your lawyer only charges legal fees if you win your case. You will not have to pay your attorney out of your pocket for their time. You also do not need to pay for your attorney’s service if you do not win your case. If your case is successful, they take their fees out of the proceeds of your settlement and jury award.
You Do Not Need to Pay for Your Own Lawyer Out of Your Pocket
The insurance company has law firms on retainer (or they have a stable of insurance defense firms they go to when they have a case). The insurance company needs to pay their attorney no matter what - win or lose. If your case goes to court, the insurance company will need to incur legal expenses. These fees can reach tens of thousands of dollars for more complex cases.
Imagine if the insurance company had to pay this money every time someone had a claim. It will be almost impossible for them to make money. If they did turn a profit, it will be far less than investors were expecting, and their stock price will get punished. Investors will sell shares in that insurance company and buy stock in one that makes more money. Since the insurance company does so much to please their investors (usually at your expense), they will try to avoid things that depress the bottom line.
Insurance Companies Often Try to Avoid Risk in Court
Thus, the insurance company tends to be risk-averse regarding litigation. However, it does not mean that the insurance company will automatically pay you the total amount that you are due.
So much of what they do is brinkmanship, figuring that you are the weaker hand they can flush out in settlement negotiations. They know that you may be desperate for a settlement check, and they act accordingly. They are the ones with a large bank account, and they try to leverage it to their advantage.
Therefore, the insurance company will try to play every possible game in the settlement process. Their most common tactic is to try to wear you down. They know you have bills to pay and may be missing multiple paychecks. The insurance company tries to push the envelope as much as possible until they get called on their tactics.
They try to prey on what they perceive to be desperation. They think you may jump at an early settlement offer because you feel you are getting a big check. However, a big check can be a loss when you can have gotten a bigger one.
You Also Have Reasons to Avoid a Trial
You also have your risks to consider in a car accident case. If your case goes to a jury trial, it is not automatic that you will win. If you happen to lose before a jury, you get nothing and go home empty-handed.
However, it does not mean you must take anything the insurance company offers just to get money and avoid a trial. Even if your case requires a trial, you can rely on an experienced car accident attorney to properly represent your case and obtain the financial recovery you deserve. You should work together with your lawyer to weigh the possible risks of trial with a settlement offer.
You Have Legal Rights, so You Can Afford Patience
When you have an experienced personal injury lawyer, you are anything but desperate. If you try handle your case independently, the insurance company will see your weaker hand.
Their adjusters are skilled in negotiation and take the time to size up their opponent. When they see an aggressive attorney in front of them who has a track record of making them pay, they may treat you far differently than they will a self-represented claimant.
An Experienced Attorney Can Keep You from Receiving Less than You Need
This is not to say that an insurance company will automatically open its wallet for a claimant an attorney represents. You will still need to go through the negotiation process. However, your lawyer knows when the insurance company is trying to underpay you. For example, your lawyer knows how to value the pain and suffering element of your claim.
People on their own only have a vague idea of what is part of your pain and suffering, if they even know it at all. The pain of suffering is a legal term with a precise meaning. You will get far less than you deserve if you do not know how to maximize these damages. An experienced lawyer will get you everything that you deserve without necessarily having to go to court.
Trials Are Rare, but You May Have to Go to a Jury
Nonetheless, there are cases when you may have no choice but to litigate. If the insurance company denies your claim, you will have no choice but to file a lawsuit. Depending on which insurance company is involved, some lawyers may even tell you to begin your case in court. Indeed, if the insurance company is taking a hard line on the actual size of your check, you may need to have a jury decide the matter.
Just because you have filed a lawsuit does not mean that your case is going all the way to trial. A lengthy process must occur before your case gets in front of a jury. First, each side may file motions with the court. The defense may try to get the case dismissed altogether. Certainly, you will need to go through the discovery process before trial, which can take considerable time.
Your Lawyer May Find an Opportunity to Settle Your Case Without a Trial
Once the discovery process is complete, the insurance company may get more serious about settling the case. If you have managed to build a strong case in discovery, the insurance company will begin to sweat. They may realize that a jury can award more than they will have to pay in a settlement agreement. Thus, the insurance company will begin raising its settlement offers until you reach an agreement.
Your car accident lawyer will understand what strategy is best for you in your case. They may get a sense of what you need to do when they see how the claims process is going. Your lawyer may know what tactics work with this individual insurance company. While there is no such thing as a “good insurance company,” some are worse than others.
Your lawyer may need to up the pressure on the insurance company through either actual litigation or a credible threat of it. If the insurance company realizes you are serious about taking them to court, they may be more willing to play ball in settlement negotiations.
You Can Harm Your Case When You Do Something Without a Lawyer
You should not let an insurance company see you without a lawyer. Although your settlement negotiations will not be admissible in court, you may damage your case when you do anything to communicate with the insurance company on your own.
An attorney cannot undo all the damage you can do to your case if you say anything to an insurance company. Insurers can and do use any mistake you make against you, whether during the claims process or a trial. If they get you on the record making a damaging admission, it can put a serious wrench in your case.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Helps Your Case?
In reality, even though your case may not go to trial, in case it does, do everything possible during your dealings with the insurance company to strengthen your position:
- Building the most robust case possible, so you can prove negligence to a jury if it is necessary
- Accurately estimate your damages, so you know how much you can credibly seek in the claims process or a lawsuit
- Showing the insurance company that you mean business in every sense of the word
Retaining an Attorney Can Only Help Your Case
Hiring a St. Louis personal injury law firm's strong lawyer can put you in the best legal position. Although each lawyer has a different style, you at least want a lawyer you know can and will take the case to trial if required.
You don’t want a litigation-happy attorney, but you need a car accident lawyer with courtroom experience in case you face a detailed and complicated trial. Ultimately, you and your lawyer will decide where you take your case and whether a settlement is in your best legal interests.