Settlement Conferences and Trials: What’s the Difference?

All good (and not so good) things must come to an end, and although sometimes it feels like it goes on forever, your claim for damages following an accident such as a motor vehicle accident will also one day come to an end. The three most common ways that it can end are by agreement, by the decision of a court, or by simply running out of time.

If you have a lawyer representing you and you stay in touch with that lawyer, you shouldn’t have any problems with time limits. Your lawyer will issue legal proceedings (called a Writ of Summons) to protect your interests and will then ensure that all Court deadlines are met.

Usually, claims are finished by reaching an agreement with an insurer such as the Insurance Commission. The preferred outcome for the Insurance Commission is when a person simply accepts the offer that it makes. This offer will almost always be very low.

If you have a lawyer representing you, they will organise either an Informal Conference or a Pre-trial Conference. An informal conference is usually held at the lawyer’s office and is just a meeting to sit down and try to come to an agreement. A formal Pre-Trial Conference is a little more involved as it is organised by the Court and is held at the Court building. There is pressure on both sides to try to reach an agreement, and the negotiation is assisted by a Registrar of the Court. If no agreement can be reached then the matter is listed for a Trial.

A trial is where a Judge hears the evidence of the parties and then makes his or her decision as to the amount the insurer will pay out. Trials are rare – making up less than 5% of all our cases. Some lawyers will almost never take a matter to trial, preferring to push through claims as quickly as possible so that they will get paid. Kakulas Legal Injury Lawyers will take your claim to trial if necessary to ensure that you get the best result possible. Having said that, it is still rare for cases to get all the way to the trial date.

It is usually important that you are present for all negotiation conferences so that you can be kept up to date on the negotiations and you can give your instructions. Your lawyer, and often specialist lawyers known as Barristers, will do the negotiating for you and most of the time you sit in a separate room.

Although it can be a nerve-racking experience you can usually have a supportive family member or friend come with you and your lawyer will help explain everything that is happening. And hopefully by the end of the negotiation an agreement can be reached that you are happy with. If not, the ultimate decision can be made by a Judge.

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