If you’re going through mediation, settlement is the single best way to get the positive outcome you want, according to published research. More than that, though, it’s also the most popular method of resolving civil cases.
Stronger Outcomes When You Settle Without Trial
In a 2008 study from DecisionSet, a legal decision services company, more than 2,054 civil cases and their outcomes were examined. The results were nothing short of stunning. In proceeding to trial instead of accepting a settlement offer, plaintiffs were wrong 61% of the time. Defendants were wrong far less often, 24% of the time. The biggest finding from the study, though, was that proceeding to trial was the right choice in only 15% of the cases. This seems to be a costly decision for plaintiffs, too, according to the research. In fact, the average cost of making the wrong choice for plaintiffs was nearly $43,000. The average cost for defendants was $1.1 million.
Attorneys seemingly play into the decision of whether or not to go to trial. The study found that in cases where lawyers are paid part of what is won at trial, cases went to trial at a much higher rate, raising questions about the role attorneys play in the decision to move forward. While the study doesn’t have the data to explain whether clients moved forward against the advice of their attorney or whether attorneys simply aren’t explaining the odds to their clients, the stark numbers make it clear that settlement is almost always going to be the right choice.
Settlement Numbers Are Increasing
Increasingly often, individuals involved in a civil lawsuit seem to understand just how powerful settlement can be. In the study “What is the Settlement Rate and Why Should We Care” from Cornell Law, study authors found the aggregate settlement rate across two different federal court districts was nearly 70%. The findings further classified the settlement rates by case categories. Major tort cases tended to have the highest settlement rate. Contract cases followed that, then discrimination cases. Constitutional tort cases tended to have the lowest settlement rates. This matters because information about how many cases settle can help the involved litigants make an informed decision.
When to Choose Settlement Over Trial
Understanding the benefits of settlement over trial can help you make the right decision in your case. One factor that may play a role in your decision is the discovery process. It can help to establish fault. Discovery is often the longest part of your case because it means investigating the incident that is at the center of your case. Often this can mean collecting depositions and finding all of the related evidence. All of that information, however, must be shared with the other side. Throughout discovery, it typically becomes obvious that one side or the other is at fault, making it easier to decide whether or not to settle.
Even if one side or the other is not found to be at fault during the discovery process, it may still be worthwhile to choose settlement over trial as a result of the costs involved. Quite a bit of time and money goes into every case that reaches a courtroom. There are a number of fees involved that you may not have previously considered like court fees, filing fees, paperwork costs and more. Most attorneys take a percentage of any settlement you get, and that percentage can increase if the case reaches a trial. Should your case have to go through the appeals process, that could add to the overall costs. Often these kinds of fees involved in a case that reaches trial pushes plaintiffs and defendants alike to settle.
Costs are a concern, but so is privacy, and settlement can help to protect your privacy. If your case reaches trial, almost all of it can be released to the public. Moreover, it can be used as a precedent in future trial, so all of the evidence and testimony involved may mean you lose your privacy when it comes to medical conditions and records or other incidents you wish would remain out of the public eye. That can make settlement a very attractive notion in some cases.
Choosing to settle or take your case to trial is a very personal decision. Even if most prefer settlement over trial, that doesn’t mean it’s right for your case. What is right for your case, however, is consulting with your attorney to make the most informed decision possible.
Maybe the most important reason many people choose to settle, though, is the fact that trials are typically fairly hard to predict. Many factors go into a judgement after a trial including the judge’s tendency to rule for one side or the other and the makeup of the jury. Socioeconomic status, gender, race, and many other factors play into how a jury might decide your case, which can make settling the right way to go for many defendants.