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Why are most civil cases settled before they go to trial?

What is a Civil Case?

To understand why most civil cases are settled out of court, it helps to know what a civil case is. Civil cases involve disputes between persons or organizations. Criminal cases, on the other hand, cover actions considered harmful to society and are tried as offenses against the state. Civil cases run the gamut from neighborhood arguments to cases initiated by individuals or groups against large companies. Many in the headlines involve charges against large organizations by environmental groups. Civil cases result in material and/or financial compensation. Ninety-seven percent of them are settled out of court. Why?

Reasons for Out-of-Court Settlements

Many civil cases are settled out of court for several reasons, including:

  • Trials are risky and neither party can predict decisions. Both defendants and plaintiffs can end up paying substantial court costs.
  • From the defendant’s position, it is better to anticipate monetary loss than to risk a higher judgment at trial.
  • Protection for the plaintiff from further civil suits is guaranteed.
  • Settlements are calculated in amounts that satisfy defendants and prevent possible higher penalties for the plaintiff should the case go to trial.
  • Chances of winning based on similar cases are uncertain .
  • The strength of evidence may be weak.
  • Uncertainty exists about how a plaintiff or defendant will fare at trial.
  • Larger companies avoid the negative publicity of a trial.
  • Trial costs average around $10,000 for a simple civil suit. Punitive damages in the trial of Exxon Valdez for the Alaskan oil spill cashed in at a staggering $5 billion, an amount possibly avoided had the company not pursued the case to the Supreme Court.

Do Your Homework—Hire the Right Lawyer

So you have a civil case? If so, when it comes to hiring the right lawyer you will have to do some research. Narrow your selection to two or three and contact them for brief interviews. Fees are an issue,  and you might want to ask their opinion on settlements. Are you billed hourly? What is their overall view of your case? Do you have a case? Eric J. Proos recommends you do not go into a civil case without an attorney. The courts can be intimidating places. If you don’t know how things work,  you are likely to lose the case in the complex procedural maze.

Get in Touch

If you live in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Westwood and surrounding CA communities give us a call. We’ll be happy to share with you our experience in the area of civil law and discuss your case. Fees are reasonable and always upfront. Call now: (213) 784-3640.

All information provided in this article is for educational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. Each situation is dependent on the specific facts and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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