What are the possible outcomes of a personal injury claim?
A personal injury claim allows a person who’s been injured by someone else’s negligence to seek compensation for their injury. In legal terms, this means the plaintiff is seeking compensation from the defendant.
This article explains the most common outcomes of a personal injury claim, and the types of compensation they provide.
1. The injured party drops their case
Sometimes, the injured party changes their mind and decides their case isn’t worth pursuing. There are many different reasons a person might decide to do this. But regardless of the reason, dropping a case will have the same results:
- The injured party will not be compensated. Dropping a case means giving up any chance at getting compensated for the injury.
- The injured party may need to pay their lawyer’s costs. If the injured party has a lawyer who’s spent time on their case, they may need to compensate them for that time. This will depend on the nature of the agreement they made with their lawyer.
- The injured party may have to pay the other side’s costs. If the case wasn’t dropped as the result of a mutual agreement, the defendant may pursue the plaintiff for costs.
- The injured party may be unable to launch a new claim. If the statute of limitations has expired, or if the case is dismissed with prejudice, the plaintiff won’t be able to change their mind again and refile.
2. The case is settled before trial
Most personal injury claims never reach trial. In fact, 95% of personal injury cases end in an out-of-court settlement.
A settlement is a formal contract between the plaintiff and the defendant. It outlines an agreement where the plaintiff agrees to drop the lawsuit in exchange for monetary compensation. Settlement agreements are usually presented to a judge, who makes it legally binding.
One caveat is that no two settlements are alike. Even the exact same injury can have different effects on different people, and that injury will be compensated in different ways. But in practice, most settlement awards do the following:
- Cover medical treatment (both past, present, and future)
- Cover lost wages (if the injury affected employment)
- Cover property repair or replacement (such as a vehicle damaged in a car accident)
- Compensate for pain and suffering and emotional distress
3. The injured party wins at trial
If a case goes to trial, there’s two ways it can turn out. The first way is that the injured party wins. A victory in court for the injured party means that they’ll receive compensation for their injuries.
This compensation will cover common factors like medical treatment, lost wages, property repair/replacement, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Depending on the nature of the injury and where it occurred, there may also be other effects. For example, a doctor who is found guilty of medical malpractice may lose their medical license.
4. The defendant wins at trial
If the defendant wins at trial, the injured party won’t receive compensation for their injury. In addition, they must pay the taxable costs of the defendant. These costs may include:
- Court filing fees
- Fees for service of process
- Witness fees
- "Statutory" attorneys' fees
5. The trial verdict is appealed
Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, if the judgment in the personal injury case goes against you, you can appeal the decision up to 30 days after the ruling.
However, attorney Robert P. Garven warns that "the trial court's decision is presumed to be correct: it is your duty to prove to the appellate court that there was an error. Depending on the nature and strength of your proof, that may be difficult to do."
Your appeal will go to a higher court, which will reconsider your case and either overturn or uphold the existing verdict.