Most cases settle before they ever get to trial and there are good reasons why. This article will discuss some of the reasons why many personal injury cases settle in B.C.
The foremost reason is certainty. If you are a plaintiff and settle, you know exactly how much money you will receive. If you are a defendant, you will know exactly how much money you will pay. The old saying, there are two sides to every story is especially applicable to litigation.
Although your lawyer will gather the evidence to tell your story to the Judge, the opposing party will have a different version of events and what those events mean, which they will want the Judge to hear. They will cross examine you and your witnesses, and call witnesses of their own. The Judge may accept any witness’s evidence in whole or part. As a result a Judge may award an amount, based in part on the evidence of those witnesses telling the other side of the story; a number that was not what you thought you would receive or pay. By settling a party removes this risk.
Trials are hard on the parties and witnesses. Your evidence will be tested by cross examination in an open court room. If relevant, very personal details of the witness’s life are revealed during a trial. Trials are generally public and the decisions are often subsequently published. This should be of particular concern in the age of the internet. In a settlement, the documents and information produced during the lawsuit are confidential, and whatever personal information is discussed is between the parties.
A judgment may be appealed extending the life of the litigation and the costs you will incur. A settlement ensures that this is the end of the matter.
Trials are expensive. In addition to the fees that you pay your lawyer there are other fees above which are called “disbursements”. Disbursements include long distance calls, postage, deliveries, travel expenses, out of office photocopying and printing, government filing and search charges and the fees of agents who conduct investigations, searches and registrations, and any other reasonable costs incurred.
Many law suits involve the hiring of experts, who provide opinion evidence. If a matter proceeds to trial, those experts normally testify. Their fee for attending the trial can be very substantial. Your lawyer will often initially cover the disbursements for your case, but you will have to pay them back at the end regardless of whether you are successful or not. Thus, if you lose a trial, for example on the issue of who was at fault for a car accident, then you will have to pay to your lawyer all of those out of pocket expenses, incurred during the litigation, including the very expensive costs of the trial days.
There may be cost consequences if you do not accept a formal offer to settle. The term costs and disbursements, include much of the disbursements to run a trial, and a contribution towards legal fees paid by a party to their counsel. The rules of court provide incentives to parties to act reasonably and settle where reasonable offers have been made. If, for example, you were offered $50,000 in the formal offer and the judge awarded you $20,000, the court may consider that you unreasonably refused the formal settlement offer and make an order depriving you of your costs and disbursements and requiring you to pay the costs and disbursements of the party who made the offer, from the date the offer was made to the end of the trial.
In summary, there are good reasons why many personal injury cases settle including the certainty of the outcome, the reduced costs of litigation, maintaining privacy, and the fact there will be no appeal. All these reasons outline why when a settlement is recommended by your lawyer as appropriate, it should be seriously considered.”The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.