What Percentage of Personal Injury Cases Go To Trial?

What Percentage of Personal Injury Cases Go To Trial?

Steven Schwartzapfel -Founding Partner Sep 30, 2022

For more than 35 years, Steven Schwartzapfel, the founding member of Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C., has been one of New York’s most prominent personal injury attorneys. Steve represents clients in all types of personal injury cases. His experience, skill, and dedication have enabled Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. to recover hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.

Personal injury cases are common, but few are decided in a court trial. In fact, the majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court, meaning that the plaintiff and defendant come to a financial or other agreement without needing a verdict from a judge or jury.

But what percentage of personal injury cases go to trial, and is your personal injury lawsuit likely to end up in court? Let’s answer both of these questions and more.

If you want to learn more or receive a free consultation about your case, contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-800-966-4999 today.

What Is a Trial Case vs. Settlement?

When you file a personal injury claim, there are two primary outcomes you can experience.

The first of these is a trial case. In a trial case:

  • You and the defendant gather evidence and appear in court at the correct date and time
  • You and the defendant present your evidence to a judge or jury
  • The judge or jury then evaluates the evidence and decides which of you is right or comes to some other conclusion

In the second outcome, you and the defendant in a case settle out-of-court.

For example, you may sue an at-fault driver for negligence because you suffered severe injuries due to their inattention on the road. Their insurance company offers you a settlement of $2 million. You then have the choice of taking the settlement or proceeding to a court trial, where you may receive a larger or smaller monetary award depending on the judge or jury’s verdict.

In addition to the above two outcomes, you can also drop your personal injury claim at any point. You may wish to do this on the advice of your legal counsel, due to cost, or for other reasons.

How Many Personal Injury Cases Go To Trial?

Despite their importance to many people, personal injury cases rarely go to trial. In fact, according to statistics released by the US Department of Justice, only about three percent of personal injury cases go to trial. Of those cases, only two percent are seen by a judge and one percent are seen by a jury.

That means 97 percent of all personal injury cases do not go to trial, either because they are settled out-of-court or because the plaintiff drops the case. There are many factors that can impact a case plaintiff or defendant’s decision.

Why Do Some Cases Go To Trial?

Many personal injury cases do indeed go to trial. Even though they only account for three percent of all filed cases, that still represents thousands to hundreds of thousands of cases per year across the country. These cases may go to trial for a variety of important reasons.

Prevent Legal Precedent

Firstly, insurance companies or other organizations may take a case to trial if they wish to prevent a legal precedent from being set, even if they believe that they stand a chance of losing. For instance, if an employee injured on the job files a workers’ comp lawsuit against their employer, the employer may accept being taken to court to prevent other employees from filing as well.

This is important because legal precedent can make a company, for instance, more vulnerable to similar lawsuits in the future. Many courts work off of precedent when determining complex cases, so controlling precedent as much as possible is a top priority for organizations like employers, businesses, and the like.


Secondly, personal injury case plaintiffs (such as accident victims) may refuse an extended settlement from the defendant out of principle. For example, they may wish to take the defendant to court to settle the matter publicly in order to make a statement or to extract as much financial compensation from them as possible.

This motivation is most common in circumstances where the plaintiff has a personal or emotional grievance against the defendant.

Need More Damages

Lastly, personal injury case plaintiffs may require more damages than what is offered to them in the form of settlements.

For instance, if an auto accident victim has medical bills totaling three million dollars, and the insurance company of the negligent driver in the case offers one million dollars, they may refuse the settlement offer to see if they can get more compensation to pay for their medical damages.

Legal advisors can tell personal injury case plaintiffs whether it’s wise to accept a settlement or not based on:

  • The total medical bills they may face in the future
  • Whether they are likely to get a better settlement offer in the future (as part of the ongoing legal negotiation process)
  • Whether their lawsuit is likely to succeed and yield a higher amount of damages than what is offered in a settlement

However, the majority of settlement offers are carefully calculated to seem attractive to case plaintiffs. It is unlikely that you will ever receive a settlement offer that is insultingly low (though this has happened in the past).

Why Do Some Cases Get Settled?

Just as some personal injury cases go to trial, others get settled out of court for many different legitimate reasons.

Time and Money

Even in apparently cut and dried cases, personal injury lawsuits cost a lot of time and money on both sides of the argument. Both sides must:

  • Pay for legal advisors (except in cases where the legal advisors work on a contingency fee basis. Schwartzapfel Lawyers operates on this basis, meaning you don’t pay us a dime unless we win damages from your case)
  • Pay for time spent away from work or other occupations. Court proceedings can take days, weeks, or even months in some cases
  • Other related costs, like the fees for filing lawsuit paperwork

Because personal injury lawsuits take time and money, some people don’t want to go through the process. This can make a settlement offer look more attractive or cause defending parties to offer bigger settlements to minimize the potential lost income from a long, drawn-out lawsuit.

Worried About Evidence

However, personal injury defendants may also be worried that the evidence is stacked against them. Therefore, they may offer very attractive settlement amounts to case plaintiffs in an attempt to circumvent the legal process and put the matter behind them.

Personal injury plaintiffs can do the same thing for the same reason. For instance, if an auto accident lawsuit plaintiff’s lawyers state that there isn’t a lot of evidence against the at-fault party, they may recommend accepting a settlement offer and settling the matter out-of-court to avoid further costs stacking up.

Cutting Losses

Lastly, either side involved in a personal injury case may simply wish to cut their losses.

For instance, if an employee sues their employer for negligent behavior, the employer may decide to settle out of court and pay a lot of money simply because it’s cheaper than what they would likely have to pay should the matter go all the way to court in front of a judge.

In this hypothetical scenario, the defendant is simply being practical. Most personal injury cases settle in an attempt to cut losses because of this, especially when the defendant is a company or other large organization. It is usually more cost-effective for such organizations to offer a settlement and consider the matter closed than it is to devote more time and resources to a lengthy lawsuit.

Which Is Right for Your Case?

It can be very difficult to determine whether your personal injury case should go to trial or if you should accept a settlement offer (should one be provided to you from your case’s defending party).

Because even simple personal injury cases can be more complex than you think, it’s a good idea to contact experienced legal representatives like Schwartzapfel Lawyers. As knowledgeable New York City attorneys, we’ve seen cases just like yours in the past and have helped individuals recover settlements totaling millions of dollars.

Whether your case revolves around an auto accident, a workplace accident, product liability, or something else entirely, we can:

  • Gather evidence on your behalf and figure out how much evidence is likely out there in your favor
  • Provide sound legal counsel no matter what decision you make
  • Advise you one way or the other as to whether you should accept a settlement offer or if you should push your case to a trial date

On top of that, we can ensure that you file your lawsuit paperwork on time and before the statute of limitations expires for your case. Contact us today for a free case evaluation at 1-800-966-4999.

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

All in all, your personal injury lawsuit could very well end in a trial and receive a verdict from a judge or jury. However, this is heavily dependent on your case’s specifics, what you need in terms of financial compensation, and other factors.

Schwartzapfel Lawyerscan help you determine whether a trial outcome is more likely, or help you determine whether you should accept a settlement offer from the defendant in a case. Don’t wait or try to file the paperwork for your lawsuit alone.

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-800-966-4999 for a free case evaluation and consultation.



Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. | Fighting For You

Bureau of Justice Statistics | US Department of Justice 

How Much Can I Get for My Personal Injury Case and How Long Will It Take? | Nolo

precedent | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute

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