Do Car Accident Cases Usually Settle or Go to Trial?

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, there were 128,188 car accidents and 1,137 fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2017. Maybe you are one of the Pennsylvania DoT statistics and you are wondering what is most likely to happen with your own insurance claim. Most auto accident insurance claims can be resolved with the insurance company without a lawsuit being filed. However, if a lawsuit is filed, there are two things that can happen: the insurance company settles out of court or the lawsuit is taken to trial by jury. Very few cases actually go to trial, with most car accident cases settling out of court. The best way to understand why this happens is to look at the benefits of settlements as opposed to jury trials.

Settlements Are Not Always Possible

One of the reasons why insurance companies like to settle out of court involves the unknown factors that are inherent to a jury trial. Juries are made up of people, and people are simply not predictable. Some jurors may base their decision on the facts in the case, while others may have decided to take it upon themselves to prevent anyone from benefiting from a civil trial. In fact, the unpredictable nature of jury trials is the major reason why the vast majority of lawsuits involving car accidents never make it to court. On the other hand, a settlement once agreed upon is a certain outcome.

However, it is not always possible for a settlement to be reached between you and the insurance company outside of a courtroom. The two parties may not agree on whether the plaintiff was truly injured, or they may disagree on whose fault the accident was. More often than not the disagreement involves the amount of compensation sought, where the insurance company is certain that the plaintiff is seeking too much and the plaintiff feels that the insurance company is offering too little.

Why Insurance Companies Usually Prefer to Settle in Auto Accident Lawsuits


There are other reasons why insurance companies prefer to settle outside of court besides the unpredictable outcome from a jury trial. Settlements, as already mentioned, have a definite outcome once both parties have reached an agreement, and the insurance company does not have to risk a massive, unexpected payout to the plaintiff. A settlement also saves litigation costs for the insurance company. The insurance company is also able to close the associated claim file. And keep in mind that even if they win the lawsuit, the insurance company may have to face an appeal that would leave the claim file open much longer. Both insurance companies and plaintiff attorneys can accurately estimate the cost of taking a claim to court and determine which option – court and the associated costs or an immediate settlement – is the best option. Just keep in mind that when the insurance company proposes a settlement, their goal is to pay out as little as possible.

Why Plaintiffs Settle in Auto Accident Lawsuits

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Plaintiffs have similar reasons for settling outside of court: a definite outcome that guarantees them compensation instead of risking no compensation at all, significantly reduced litigation costs (which can easily run into hundreds of thousands of dollars), and closure. However, there are some additional reasons for plaintiffs to settle. In most auto accident lawsuits, there are significant injuries involved that include expensive medical bills and lost wages. Those medical bills begin to pile up over time, and the sooner an agreement can be reached, the sooner those overwhelming debts can be resolved and the victim can start to move on with their post-accident life.

Settlement During the Trial

There are instances when the insurance company offers to settle during the course of the trial. When this happens, settlement offers may rise in value as the trial proceeds, but you cannot count on that occurring. Even if the settlement value increases, you cannot be sure that the increased amount will cover the additional legal fees that you have incurred as the trial has moved forward.


The short answer is that most accident cases settle out of court and they do so for a variety of reasons. Both lawyers and insurance companies see court as a last resort and a relatively risky course of action because of the unpredictability of juries. Settling out of court is preferred by both sides because the outcome is predictable and settled (unlike a jury trial), closure can be achieved faster, and both sides save money on litigation costs. Not all car accident cases can be settled outside of a courtroom, however.

Contact Donaghue & Labrum

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, you may need help to get the compensation you deserve under the law. Contact the skilled personal injury lawyers at Donaghue & Labrum right away. Whether your case involves an injury in a car wreck or a wrongful death lawsuit, we will aggressively represent you against the insurance company and, if needed, carry your case all the way to a jury trial. With decades of experience in personal injury practice, we will fight to get you the compensation that the law says you deserve.