Disadvantages of pre-trial settlements

Following the recommendations of the Woolf report, the Civil Justice System in the UK has been reformed in 1999. As a result, less than 10 % of cases settle at the trial[1], while most of the cases settle much earlier.

There are however many cons.

Although pre-trial settlements have the advantage of ending the dispute quickly, the parties should weigh up what they get against what they could obtain if the case goes to trial.

Settlements also cause injustice, because the parties usually hold very unequal bargaining positions. For example, you have a physical injury and you want to take you insurance company to court. While the insurance company is in a strong financial position and is not in a hurry to settle the case, your position is different for obvious reasons. The insurance company is also a ‘repeat player’: litigation is routine and their staff are used to work with lawyers. In contrast, you are like a ‘one-shotter’: you are unfamiliar with the procedure and this can be traumatic.

This is the reason why going to court can be a better option: the judge will treat the parties equally and you can get the full compensation that you are entitled to.


[1] See Court statistics (eg. county courts p.7)

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