If you choose to go to trial, and your case is not eligible for arbitration, the process will begin with the filing of a lawsuit, followed by a discovery process, and ultimately, a trial date. Moreover, if your case goes to arbitration and one of the party’s appeals, the case will go to trial.
This page is meant to help you understand both the risks and benefits of taking a case to trial.
Trials are High Risk and High Reward
We make sure to advise our clients that taking a case to trial is a high-risk and high-reward proposition.
Every case is different. That’s why we take pride in properly evaluating each case and offering counsel as to the best way to proceed: arbitration, trial, mediation, or settlement.
Before we make a recommendation, we typically round table your case with four of our top-flight attorneys and a medical doctor, examining the facts and weighing the costs and benefits of taking the case to trial.
Ultimately, though, it’s your decision whether to take a settlement offer or take the case to trial.
Before you go to trial, remember that nothing is guaranteed. We have a strong track record of winning verdicts, but we cannot guarantee success because there are so many factors that can influence how a jury decides your case. Trials are ultimately very unpredictable, which is why both sides are incentivized to reach a fair settlement first.
Of course, it goes without saying that sometimes the best way to settle a case is to prepare for trial. The prospect of a pending trial often encourages the defendant to put a fair settlement offer on the table.
One of the first steps in the trial is the voir dire, or jury questioning, process. If you’ve ever been called to jury duty, you have some sense of how this process works.
The attorneys for both parties have the right to ask questions of potential jurors. We ask questions to try to determine whether a potential juror may have a bias against our client, or a negative predisposition against the arguments we intend to present.
There are three important things to remember about this process:
- Our Time is Limited: We only get about an hour to question potential jurors. We can’t anticipate or ask about every possible issue, so our information will be limited when determining which jurors we want to remove from the case.
- Three Strikes: Out of around 20 potential jury members, we are only allowed to remove three from the pool. This means that if there are five jurors we believe may have beliefs that make them less likely to give us the award we deserve, we can, at best, only remove three of them from the case.
- The Defense Removes the Best Jurors: The defense attorney is also entitled to strike three jurors from the pool. This means that the jurors most receptive to our arguments will be removed.
The result of these factors is that trials can be somewhat unpredictable. At the end of the day, we do the best we can to remove jurors with beliefs that make them less likely to give you the award you deserve. However, our information is limited, and we can only remove three jurors from the pool.
Another important thing to understand about trials is how they are scheduled. When we file a lawsuit, we are given a schedule for the entire process, with deadlines for submitting key documents as well as a trial date.
However – that date is usually several months or even a year in the future, and will almost certainly change by the time we get to trial.
When we finally do get to trial, it is important to remember that courtrooms are intentionally overbooked. That is, up to four other trials will be scheduled for the same date and courtroom as your case. The court system does this on purpose because the vast majority of cases settle long before they go to trial.
However, that means when we show up for our trial, we may have to wait several hours, or perhaps even a day or two, before it is our turn. Additionally, if someone else has been waiting much longer, we may get bumped from our courtroom and moved somewhere else.
The nature of scheduling can create three problems.
First, if you need to take time off of work for the trial, you will not necessarily know exactly how many and which days you need to take off.
Second, if your employer, friends, or other witnesses are testifying at the trial, you will want to be respectful of their time. If the trial is delayed, you may be asking a friend or witness to take a different day off work, and this may or may not be possible with their schedule.
Third, experts who we hire to provide testimony may have limited availability. For instance, we may think that they will testify in the afternoon on the first day of the trial, but if we are bumped, or the jury selection process takes all day, we may have to move their testimony into the next day. Unfortunately, they may not be available that day and rescheduling can be difficult.
Court Costs and Fees
Taking a case to trial necessarily entails certain costs. For instance, we need to pay the court filing fees when we submit a lawsuit or other documents.
Moreover, for a trial we will likely hire experts to help bolster your case. This may include the following:
- Medical Experts: These will testify as to whether your injuries could have been caused by the accident
- Economists: These experts can speak to wage losses resulting from your injuries
- Your Doctor: We may ask your doctor or treating provider(s) to testify that you are disabled and unable to work, as well as to confirm the extent of your injuries
- Simulation / Video Experts: We work with OnPoint Productions and other companies to create video simulations of your accident, as well as day-in-the-life videos to show the jury how your injuries impact your daily activities.
- Accident Reconstruction Experts: We may hire accident reconstruction experts to analyze your case. Some of the folks we have worked with in the past include David Thornburg of Thorn Consulting Services, Chuck Lewis of Tech Recon Inc., Steve Harbinson of J Cameron Investigations, LLC, and Bryan Jorgenson, an expert in accident reconstruction based in Seattle.
These experts charge for their time and their fees will be deducted from the award you win at trial. This is an important cost to remember.
Verdicts: Liability vs. Damages
When the jury deliberates, they have to deal with two separate questions.
First, they have to determine liability. In other words, is the defendant responsible for your injuries?
In a car accident case, for instance, this means determining who was at fault in causing the accident. In a medical malpractice, this means determining whether the doctor failed to follow the established standard of care in the course of your treatment.
Second, the jury has to determine damages. This means that once they’ve decided the defendant is liable, they have to agree on how much money the defendant should pay.
On both of these questions, ten of the twelve jurors have to agree in order to make a decision. That means if three jurors feel that the defendant is not liable, or feel that the damages should be lower, they can prevent the verdict we are hoping for. This is one of the reasons that trials can be very unpredictable.
Trials are unpredictable. On the one hand, taking a case all the way to trial can result in a very high-value verdict. On the other hand, there is a risk that the jury does not see things your way, and you could be left with nothing.
We will stand with you throughout your case, and fight for the maximum recovery possible under the law. If you take your case to trial, we will be right beside you.