Settling a Car Accident Claim vs. Going to Trial: What is the Difference?

Personal injury Lawyer Matt Arnold answers the question: “I was involved in a motor vehicle accident with injuries. Do I need a lawyer?”


The majority of car accident claims are settled before they reach trial. However, when parties are unable to reach an agreement out of court, the case will proceed to trial.

negotiation-room-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Personal-Injury-Lawyer-300x200As a victim of a car accident in North Carolina, it is imperative to understand your legal rights in order to fight for the maximum compensation that covers your damages and losses. For this reason, it is advised to be represented by a North Carolina car accident attorney to determine whether you should settle your claim or go to court.


What is the Process of Settling a Car Accident Claim in North Carolina?

In order to determine whether you should settle a car accident claim or go to court, it is vital to understand the difference between the two processes.

Typically, all car accident claims begin with settlement negotiations between the injured party and their attorney on one side and the at-fault driver’s insurance company and their lawyers on the other side. Here is how the settlement process works:

  1. Fault. Before the parties can work out a settlement offer, the at-fault motorist’s insurer will have to accept that its insured driver was at fault for causing the victim’s injury. It is vital to be represented by a skilled car accident attorney at this stage to be able to prove the other party’s fault.
  2. Demand letter. After your attorney determines the fair amount of compensation, you will be able to send a demand letter to begin settlement negotiations.
  3. Counteroffer. The insurance company may either agree to pay out a claim based on the demand letter or make a counteroffer. In most cases, it is the latter. However, it is not advised to accept the insurer’s counteroffer before consulting with a lawyer.
  4. Settlement agreement. Once the parties agree on the compensation amount, they will proceed to draft a settlement agreement that addresses all the terms of the settlement.

However, if the parties cannot reach a settlement agreement or the at-fault party’s insurance coverage is not enough to cover the victim’s losses, a trial may be necessary for the victim to obtain full and fair financial compensation for their damages.


What is the Process of Going to Trial After a North Carolina Car Accident?

If no settlement agreement can be reached or the at-fault party does not have enough insurance to pay for the victim’s damages and losses, the injured party may file a civil lawsuit against the negligent motorist.

  • A civil lawsuit is filed. Under C.G.S. § 1-52, victims of car accidents can file a personal injury lawsuit within three years from the date of the injury.
  • The defendant responds to the plaintiff. After the lawsuit is filed, the defendant will have a chance to respond to the plaintiff’s complaint. They can either admit or deny the allegations.
  • Discovery. The parties will collect all available evidence, witness statements, and documentation to prove their legal case. It is vital to be represented by a North Carolina car accident attorney to help you build a strong legal case during the discovery process.
  • Pre-trial. At this stage, both parties will inform the judge of how their case is proceeding and ask the judge to set a trial date. Most personal injury claims are settled at or before this stage.
  • Trial. Both sides will present their legal case in front of the judge.
  • Verdict. After hearing both sides, the judge will issue a verdict and, if they believe that the defendant was at fault, award damages to the plaintiff.

Speak with our car accident attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, in North Carolina to discuss your unique case and determine whether you should settle your claim or go to court. Call (704) 370-2828 to receive a video or phone consultation with our lawyers to explore your legal options or fill out our contact form. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville and Monroe.







The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.





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