Trial vs. Settlement: What’s the Difference?

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So you or a loved one have been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault—a car accident, a slip and fall, a dog bite, or something similar. In legal terms, you (or your loved one) have suffered a personal injury that has changed your life in some way. You now have the option to hire personal injury lawyers—like us at PARRIS —to file a personal injury claim that holds the at-fault party accountable for their actions.

Many of us are familiar with how this process works: someone’s careless actions hurt you, you file a personal injury claim against them, and you get compensation for their negligence. However, most of us aren’t familiar with how that compensation is earned.

Successful personal injury cases end with either a settlement, which happens before or during trial, or a verdict, which happens after a trial. You may not think knowing the difference between the two really matters. However, the choice to settle or try a case can significantly affect the timing and amount of your recovery. Understanding the difference between settling and taking your case to trial can help you determine which option is best for you.


A settlement is a good faith agreement between two parties in a case outside of court. In most personal injury cases, these parties include you and your representation, and the offending party’s insurance company and their representation.

Settlements are achieved after extensive negotiations with the opposing party—often between one and three years. California law requires insurance companies to act in good faith when negotiating your settlement. Despite this, they’re often working to avoid paying out the money you deserve. PARRIS personal injury lawyers fight these companies for you, ensuring you get a fair settlement covering medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

Though PARRIS prepares every personal injury case for trial, most cases settle before the trial happens. Depending on the case, settlements can be faster, more efficient, and less expensive to achieve than going all the way to trial.


Trials are formal opportunities to present the facts of your case before a judge and (usually) a jury. Unlike in pre-trial negotiations with the opposing party, trials give you the chance to tell your story to a jury of your peers. A trial with a judge and no jury is called a court trial or bench trial; the outcome is called a finding. A jury trial, on the other hand, ends in a verdict.

Depending on the facts of your case, a trial may involve more risk for you than settling a case. It is very expensive to take your case to trial, and the litigation process is usually very long (think 3-5 years).

However, successful trials often end with reward amounts that far exceed what they would have been had the case settled before trial. Plus, hiring personal injury lawyers with a history of success at trial reduces the risk you take on by taking your case to trial. If you know you can trust your attorneys to deliver, then you have nothing to fear.

PARRIS attorneys have a long history of trial success, which you can read about here. If going to court is the right choice for your case, then rest assured that you’re in excellent hands at PARRIS.

Trial vs. Settlement: What’s Right for You

So the question remains: Which is the better option, settlement or trial?

Unfortunately, we must give the typical lawyer answer: it depends. You’ll always have both options available to you, but the “better” choice ultimately depends on the facts of your case and how willingly the opposing party will cooperate with you.

To give yourself the best chance of a positive resolution to your personal injury claim, you should partner with a trusted legal advocate. With the right legal team fighting for you, deciding whether you should settle or take your case to trial becomes much easier.

Your legal team at PARRIS will walk you through your options and help guide you through each step of the process, however complex. The best part: we do all of this at no upfront cost to you. With us, you pay no fees until we win.

Contact PARRIS today to speak with a skilled California personal injury lawyer who can help you decide whether a settlement or trial is the best option for your specific needs.

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If you need immediate assistance, please call our office at (661) 464-0745 and ask to speak with someone in our Intake Department available 24/7.

Alex Wheeler - PARRIS Law Firm Attorney Speaking with a Client - Legal Consultation

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