How Many Personal Injury Claims Wind Up in Court?

The great majority of personal injury claims won't make it to a court trial. Here's why.

While it’s not possible to give a definitive percentage on how many cases make it all the way to trial, the answer is “not many.” The vast majority of personal injury cases never get to the trial stage of a civil case, and many cases reach an out-of-court settlement before a lawsuit is even filed. So, why is that?

There Are No Guarantees in a Courtroom

There are a number of factors that come into play, but maybe the biggest is that neither side of a personal injury lawsuit -- meaning the injured person (the plaintiff) and the person or company being sued (the defendant) -- wants to face the uncertainty that comes along with putting the outcome of a case into a jury’s hands.

After all the appropriate evidence has been presented in court and the judge has instructed the jury on what they are to consider and what they are to decide, the outcome is still very much in the air. That’s because a jury is comprised of people, and people are unpredictable.

Juries can be swayed by (or can place too much importance on) seemingly insignificant aspects of the case; they can sympathize with witnesses to the extent that they no longer view the evidence objectively; they can decide that one of the parties is too greedy or too stubborn (or too anything) and cast their verdict accordingly; or they can consider facts or evidence that the judge specifically instructed them not to consider.

These are just a few examples of factors that can make the difference between a finding that the defendant was liable (sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more), and a decision absolving the defendant of liability and giving the plaintiff nothing.

Litigation is Expensive

This is all to say nothing of the incredible cost -- in time and expense -- of taking a case all the way through a civil trial. It’s no wonder that most personal injury cases settle.

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