There are both advantages and disadvantages to settling out of court. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies and reviewed by the New York Times, however, provided evidence that settling out of court is generally more beneficial than going to court. The study provided evidence that the majority of plaintiffs who decided against settlement and instead chose to go to trial received less money after the trial than they would have if they had agreed to a settlement offer.
The advantages of taking a settlement are many. Going to trial can be expensive and time-consuming. One must not only consider the extra preparation and time that is required of their attorney, but also the fact that they will be forced to miss work and may be required to travel for the court case. Once the case goes to trial, there is also the fact that it may take longer to receive a settlement. Not only might the trial take significant time, but there is also the possibility of appeals. Between the trial and appeals, a case could take years to conclude. Trials can also be stressful events for all of those involved. By agreeing to a settlement, both parties avoid potentially having their actions and character questioned. Additionally, the results of a trial are not guaranteed. There is a lot more unpredictability when a case goes through trial than when it ends with a settlement. With a settlement, those involved know exactly how much the settlement will be worth. If a case goes to trial, there is a chance the plaintiff could receive more money, but there is also a chance the jury will not award them more money. There is also the possibility that the plaintiff will lose the case and receive nothing at all. Finally, there is far greater privacy with a settlement than going to trial. If a case goes to trial, all information, including testimony and evidence, will be publicly available.
Many of the above arguments seem to be beneficial to the plaintiff. There is, however, a benefit to the defendant in settling out of court. If a defendant agrees to an out-of-court settlement, they are not found officially liable. This means they are not admitting guilt. This can go a long way for the public reputation of the defendant.
The disadvantages of settling out of court can be linked to some of the advantages of settling out of court. I believe the disadvantages depend on the perspective of those involved and the evidence available. A plaintiff, for example, could feel passionately about proving the liability of the defendant. In this case, it can be done through the court system, because a settlement does not equal guilt. Additionally, the plaintiff may feel that the settlement offer is not fair and may attempt to take the case to court in order to hopefully be awarded a larger settlement.