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Why do personal injury cases go to trial? Personal injury cases can go to trial for many reasons. Most personal injury claims settle well before a trial. However, sometimes the two parties cannot agree on the amount the defendant should pay or even whether the defendant is responsible for the injuries. Whether a personal injury claim settles or goes to trial, a personal injury attorney is invaluable in helping you get the best outcome. Call the California personal injury attorneys at Kuvara Law Firm, 1-800-4-INJURY, to get help with your claim.

Types of Personal Injury Claims

In California, a personal injury claim arises when you are injured due to the intentional or negligent action of an individual or company. There are many types of personal injury cases, including:

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents. People in San Francisco, California spend almost fifty-seven hours a year in traffic. People in Los Angeles spend almost twice that amount of time in traffic. It is not surprising, then, that the most common type of personal injury claim involves motor vehicle accidents.
  • Medical Malpractice. Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is injured by a nurse or doctor who was negligent in the patient’s care. Some common types of medical malpractice are surgical errors, failure to diagnose a medical issue, prescribing the wrong drug, or prescribing the wrong dose of a drug.
  • Wrongful Death. In California, the surviving spouse, children, or other dependent children of a person who has died in an accident may bring a personal injury claim against the person who caused the accident.
  • Premises Liability. The owner or operator of a public building has a duty to its customers to maintain a safe premises. If a customer has an accident, the owner may be liable for any resulting injuries.

Although these are the most common types of personal injury claims, many more types of personal injuries can lead to claims.

What Factors Lead to Trials in Personal Injury Cases?

Most personal injury cases settle before going to trial. Both plaintiffs and defendants prefer to settle cases to avoid unpredictable and costly trials.

If you are involved in a personal injury claim, your personal injury lawyer will help you file your claim and navigate the steps of your case. One of the most important steps is discovery, in which your attorney will gather as much information as he or she can about your injuries and what caused them.

After you and your attorney have gathered all the information you need, your attorney will start negotiating with the defendant to settle your case. You and the defendant will try to agree on a settlement amount that compensates you for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Often, the defendant’s ability to settle or pay the agreed-upon settlement amount is determined by the defendant’s insurance company. Very few people can pay for a personal injury claim out of pocket. That is why most people carry insurance, such as automobile insurance, to help pay for personal injury claims if they cause an accident. If you and the defendant agree on a settlement amount, the defendant will pay you that amount in exchange for withdrawing your case. Personal injuries caused by car accidents are so common that there is typically a car accident insurance claims process that can expedite settlement.

In rare instances, parties to a personal injury lawsuit are unable to agree on a settlement amount and the case goes to trial. There are many reasons a personal injury claim might go to trial, including:

  • The insurance company refuses to settle because it believes the defendant can win the case. If it is not clear that the defendant is responsible for your injury, the insurance company may prefer to take their chances at trial. Insurance companies often dictate whether a defendant can settle a case because defendants usually cannot pay a settlement without the insurance company’s help.
  • The settlement amount demanded by your personal injury attorney is too high for the insurance company to pay without trying to fight it at trial.
  • You and the defendant disagree on key facts of the incident. If questions of facts still exist, you will likely have to go to trial to let the jury decide the facts.

In some cases, the insurance company will decide to go to trial as a part of a broader strategy. Insurance companies have many clients and defend hundreds, if not thousands, of personal injury claims every year. Some insurance companies decide to take a case to trial to send a message to potential plaintiffs that bringing a personal injury claim against their clients will not be easy.

What Is the Role of a Personal Injury Attorney in Trial Preparation?

Whether your personal injury claim settles or goes to trial, your attorney will have to work hard to get you a favorable outcome. Your attorney must gather the facts about your case and figure out everything he or she can about your injuries and how they affect your life. Your personal injury attorney will do this by conducting pre-trial discovery through written questions, document requests, and oral depositions. Discovery can be time-consuming and requires experience and legal knowledge.

Additionally, your personal injury attorney will use the information gathered during discovery to construct a strategy for how to proceed with your case. Your attorney will have a strategy for attempting to settle your case and for how to present your case at trial.

When considering what to look for in a personal injury attorney, you should look for an attorney with experience in personal injury claims similar to yours. You can ask for a consultation, past cases, and references from past clients.

Negotiating a Settlement Agreement

One of the most important things your personal injury attorney will do is attempt to settle your personal injury claim. Your attorney will use everything that he or she has learned during discovery to attempt to agree on a settlement amount with the defendant.

What Happens at Trial?

If you and the defendant cannot agree on a settlement amount, your personal injury claim will likely go to trial. During personal injury trials in California, you present your case to the jury. The jury must then determine whether the defendant caused your injuries and, if so, how much the defendant should pay to compensate you.

Opening Statements

A trial starts with opening statements from both the plaintiff and the defendant. In the opening statements, the parties give the jury a summary of the evidence they are going to present and what they hope the jury will find.

Plaintiff’s Case

As the plaintiff, you get to present your case to the jury first. Your lawyer will present evidence about your injury through witnesses and expert testimony. You will likely testify about how your injury happened and how the injury has affected your life. The defendant will have a chance to cross-examine all your witnesses.

Defendant’s Case

After you are done presenting your case, the defendant will have a chance to present his or her case. The defendant will have his or her own witnesses and will likely have his or her own experts. Your personal injury lawyer will cross-examine all the defendant’s witnesses.


Once the defendant is done presenting his or her case, you will be allowed to put up additional witnesses or recall witnesses to rebut the defendant’s case.

Closing Arguments

After the rebuttal, both you and the defendant are given a chance to present a closing argument to the jury. In closing arguments, both sides sum up their arguments to the jury. Your attorney will ask the jury to find the defendant liable for your injury.


After the jury has heard everything, they will go into the jury room to deliberate. They will discuss everything they heard during the trial and decide on liability and compensation. Juries in civil trials have twelve members. In California, only nine have to agree on a decision.

Outcomes of Personal Injury Trials

There are two possible outcomes for a personal injury trial.

First, the jury could decide in your favor, meaning you win. If you win, the jury also decides how much compensation the defendant owes you. The amount of your compensation will be based on your economic damages, your pain and suffering, and how your injuries will affect you in the future.

Second, the jury could decide that the defendant is not responsible for your injuries and you lose. Although losing would be disappointing, you still have options to try for a better outcome. You can appeal to a higher court and ask for a new trial or for the jury decision to be overturned.

If you have suffered a personal injury in California, contact Kuvara Law Firm so that we can help you get the best outcome for your case.

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