Settlements v. Trials – Which is Best?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions we get. Should my case go to trial or should I settle? The answer is – it depends. Each case is different and each client has different considerations to take into account as well as different priorities for the resolution of the dispute.

Some clients may want to resolve their case as quickly as possible, perhaps to avoid publicity or perhaps to get back to business and to avoid the distraction and expense of a protracted lawsuit. Other clients may place a priority on winning the case on its merits, which is more likely to result in a case going to trial. In this article, we will talk in generalities so please keep in mind that the decision to settle a case is a personal one and is very fact specific. When the time comes to make the decision to settle or proceed to trial, we’re happy to help guide you through the decision to reach the right result for you and your case.

We start with the fact that in civil litigation, particularly cases involving construction projects, far more cases settle then go to trial. This is for a wide variety of reasons, but most typically is because there are two sides to every story (and in some cases many more than two sides!). Settlements allow the parties to control how the dispute is resolved as opposed to putting the resolution of the dispute in the hands of a third party (judge, jury, or arbitrator).

If settling is far more common than taking a case to trial,, why would we ever go to trial? There are plenty of reasons that a client would want to take their case to trial instead of settling. First of all, settling a case may not be an option. In order to settle a case, the other parties have to be in agreement as well. If all parties are not agreeable to a settlement, then trial is inevitable. If the amount of a claim is very large and liability of a client is very low, then this can also drive the decision to take a case to trial. Regardless, when settlement offers come in, we work with our clients to weigh the pros and cons of that settlement and decide whether to accept, reject or make a counteroffer. In those cases that warrant taking the case through trial as opposed to settling, our experienced trial attorneys are ready to proceed to the end.

Another example of why a party would want to go to trial is because an issue of legal contract interpretation needs to be made by a judge. What do we mean by that? If a client is in the position that there is a dispute that will likely come up again and again concerning the interpretation of certain contract language the client uses time and again, they may want a decision to be made by a judge on how the contract should be interpreted (sometimes referred to as a declaratory judgment case) so that they know how to move forward in good faith with future contracts.

Deciding whether to take a case to trial or to settle it can feel overwhelming. We understand that and know how to guide our clients through the decision-making process. We’ll make sure that you are taking into account all of the facts and circumstances before making this decision. If you’re involved in a dispute or foresee a dispute coming up in the future, give us a call, we are happy to help.

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