Victim of Police misconduct? Click here


Those who suffer a personal injury are typically entitled to seek compensation for their losses. After hiring a personal injury attorney, the victim will receive this compensation through either a personal injury settlement or a court award. But what’s the difference between the two? Is one preferable to the other? Read on to find out more about the differences between these case outcomes.

Personal Injury Settlements: Overview and Process

Millions of injury victims across the country seek compensation each year. Their claims are then processed by the insurance companies of the negligent or otherwise unlawfully acting parties that have caused harm.

As the name implies, settlements are a type of compromise between the two — and occasionally more — parties involved. Both plaintiff and defendant typically benefit from settling, but they must compromise in some way.


For the plaintiff, the compromise means accepting potentially less compensation than they would receive by going to court. The trade-off for this is getting a payout faster and without having to go through an expensive trial.

For the defendant, the compromise is paying the compensation without defending themselves. Their trade-off is the opportunity to dodge a full court judgment that might include significant monetary damages, including punitive damages.

Personal injury settlements can come at any time before trial and may even occur after a trial has already begun. When they occur at the beginning of a case, while negotiations are just getting underway, it often means that one party has a much stronger case than the other.

For example, there might be significant evidence problems or questions surrounding liability. In such a case, an alleged wrongdoer’s insurance company will be less likely to settle immediately.

The insurance company may even decide to go to trial if the case against their client is weak. However, in the face of damning proof, the same company will settle instead of risking a higher verdict amount at trial.

Court Awards: Overview and Process

Court awards come into play when the two sides of a case cannot reach a settlement agreement. Court awards are not settlements; instead, they represent complete damages totals payable in full to the plaintiff.

Typically, the parties to a personal injury action will attempt to settle out of court through settlement negotiations. If negotiations bear little to no fruit initially, the injury victim may decide to file a lawsuit to compel the insurance company to pay.

Once a lawsuit is filed, the parties will engage in discovery, which is the process of collecting and analyzing evidence. It is common for discovery evidence to lead to renewed settlement talks, especially when the evidence is overwhelmingly damning or exculpatory.


The main benefit of going to court for injury victims is that they may be awarded significantly more compensation from a court award than from a settlement. Juries will calculate the damages based on the evidence and will not cut the defendant a break, which is what can happen in a settlement.

For the defendant, the principal benefit of going to court is being found not responsible for an incident and having to pay nothing at all.

When to Consider a Settlement vs. Pursuing a Court Award

Injury victims who need maximum compensation should listen closely to their attorney when deciding on a trial or a settlement. In every case, a personal injury attorney seeks to recover as much compensation as possible for their client. However, as mentioned, there may be issues in the case that lead the attorney to advise the client to settle.

Since each personal injury case is different, many factors and characteristics vary from case to case. However, in most instances, the following factors heavily influence whether a plaintiff should settle or pursue a court award:

  • Insurance company’s willingness to pay
  • The quality of the evidence
  • How quickly the plaintiff needs compensation

An attorney may also advise pursuing a court award without any intention of going to court. In the right case, simply filing a personal injury lawsuit is enough pressure to compel an insurance company to settle. 

Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Compensated?

A personal injury lawyer is necessary for any victim who needs maximum compensation. With an attorney representing you, your odds of getting compensated properly are much higher than without a lawyer.

How Much Will My Lawyer Charge?

Your personal injury lawyer will receive a percentage of your final compensation payout, whether it’s in the form of a settlement or a court award. Typically, they ask for 33% for settlements and up to 40% for court awards. Clients of personal injury lawyers customarily pay nothing upfront and owe no money at all if their attorney fails to recover compensation.

How Long Do I Have to Seek Compensation?

Victims of personal injury accidents have two years to file a lawsuit in Virginia or lose their right to compensation. In certain cases, the statute of limitations may be extended, such as in cases involving minors.

Get the Professional Guidance You Need

Getting the guidance you need in personal injury matters can help you achieve peace of mind. If you have suffered an injury, the Commonwealth Law Group is ready to meet and discuss your case. Call today for a free consultation.

If you have been injured at work or through the negligence of another individual or entity, contact us at (804) 999-9999 or or use the form below to connect with our legal team. We will fight to get you the justice you deserve.