Gary: Hi, I’m Gary Burger of Burger Law, and this is my mom, Joan Burger, also of Burger Law. We’re just doing some math, and we have a combined 64 years of legal experience. One of the questions I frequently get from my clients – and I’d like to answer now – is settlement versus trial. Thoughts?
Joan: Okay. First of all, your lawyer always has to be ready for trial. That is a strong incentive for the other side, that is, the people that we sue, to settle the case. It makes your case more valuable. Most cases end up settling, but again, it might be almost on the courthouse steps as we said. You have to be aggressive and ready for trial, and we certainly do that.
Gary: So, they say 90% of the cases settle, but ultimately, the only power that you have is to go to trial and to get a verdict, regardless of how you’re injured. Insurance companies don’t have to pay you. Doctors who commit malpractice don’t have to pay you. It’s only when you go prove your case. Many times, especially in these days 2016, insurance companies are cheap and they don’t want to pay you. Insurance companies want to take premiums and deny claims, so we frequently have cases where we get all the medical, get all the stuff, and we get low offers from insurance companies regardless of the fact that we’re very aggressive to demand high settlements. So, many times that means that we end up filing suit, but just because you filed suit doesn’t mean you’re going to trial.
Joan: You know that’s right. It’s a long process, so filing suit, and then the lawyer, your lawyer has to be aggressive in getting the documentation and getting the statements from the other parties and preparing for trial, and as he or she prepares for trial, then your case is more and more settlement-ready because really, no – I always used to say this during my mediation – no normal person likes to go to trial. Lawyers like to go to trial, but the rest of you really don’t, and so because it’s unpredictable and it’s risky. A settlement is for sure, so do not be afraid to consider settlement. It doesn’t mean you’re giving in, and your lawyer will advise you. You’re gonna get the best value that you possibly can for your set of facts.
Gary: And we do try cases. We tried many this year already. We try many every year. But, what you want to do from a lawyer’s point of view might… One of my duties to my client is make sure that I don’t leave any money on the table, so I get the highest value, full compensation, not 80% compensation but full compensation for all of the injuries that we can expect the trial. So, we’d certainly like to settle all. We could like to settle many cases, and we certainly do, but having a trial is ultimately the only power. However, I’ll echo what Judge Burger said is that, at the end of a case regardless of the jury verdict, no light is gonna shine down from heaven and say one person’s right and one person’s wrong. You’re not gonna get that validation. We’re not in the vengeance business. This is to settle a civil claim, to resolve a civil dispute, and the jury system is the worst best system that we have to do so. So, with that being said and with those understandings, many times it’s better to settle. You have a sure result, but if you have a recalcitrant defendant or a defendant who’s not admitting liability or does a disparate view of the level of damages and they want to roll the dice, we certainly try the cases.
Joan: That’s for sure because remember also the jury. In fact, on my years on the bench and even practicing, rarely does the jury just give the plaintiff everything they ask for. So, the jury is going to, in their jury room during their deliberations compromise. They’re gonna say, “Maybe, there shouldn’t have been that many doctor visits,” or, “Maybe, it’s not all due to this accident.” The trial is great, but if the case can be settled for a fair and reasonable amount, then that’s what I recommend as a mediator and as a judge too.
Gary: I’ve rarely had someone say, “Hey, not only did I get in this accident or this happened to me, now I want to go through a year and a half of litigation and make myself go through this stress of trial.” We hope that we answered some of your questions about trial versus settlement. If you have more, call us at 314-542- 2222 as you hear on that phone right now. Visit our website, www.burgerlaw.com. We answer a lot of questions. Call us, email us, Facebook messages, visit with us, and we’re happy to answer your questions. Thanks mom.