Not necessarily. Not all cases are tried before a jury. Whether or not your case settles "out of court" depends on the facts of the case, how serious your injuries are and how fair a settlement you're offered. If there's a lot of discrepancy between the parties' stories, it's more likely you'll have to go to court. Also, if you think your case is worth way more than you're offered by the insurance company, you might end up presenting your case before a jury.
The Difference Between Settling a Case and Going to Trial
The best way to describe the difference between settling a case and going to trial is to use an example.
Let's say someone named Bill rear-ends you at a stop light at 40 miles per hour. You're left with serious damage to your car, as well as neck and back problems that need lots of medical attention.
In some cases, Bill will admit the accident was his fault and you will file a claim against him (and his insurance company). The insurance company gives you a fair offer that covers all your injuries and damages, and you accept the offer. That's called a settlement. Both parties came to an agreement without the need for a trial (and in your case, without the need of an attorney). So here, you won't appear in court.
Sometimes You'll Hire an Attorney, But You Won't Go to Court
Then, there's a "middle ground" scenario. Let's say Bill still admits the accident was his fault, but when you go to file a claim the insurance company gives you a really unfair offer - thousands of dollars less than you deserve. What's more, they won't return your calls and seem to be giving you the run around. Unfortunately, this isn't uncommon!
In this instance, many people turn to a personal injury attorney for help. A lawyer can use their skill and expertise to negotiate with the insurance adjuster for a fair offer. Sometimes simply having a lawyer on your side will deter the adjuster from giving you a low offer - they know they won't get away with it.
So in this scenario, let's say your lawyer negotiates on your behalf for a new offer. You agree to the terms and end up with the money you need to recover your damages. This, too, is a form of settling a case. It doesn't go to trial and you don't appear in court, even though you have a lawyer.
When a Case Goes to Trial
The final scenario goes something like this: Bill rear ends you and his insurance company gives you an unfair offer. You attempt to negotiate on your own, but fail. You hire a lawyer. The lawyer attempts to negotiate with the insurance adjuster, but the adjuster won't budge. You and your lawyer have two options: accept the low offer or take the case to trial.
When a case goes to trial, yes, you will appear in court. The lawyer will do the work, all the client has to do is tell their story. We work with our clients to make sure they are at ease with the process and understand each step of the way. Ultimately, a jury decides the main issues of who is responsible and how much should be awarded to compensate you for your injuries.
The decision to go to court is up to you. You are the only one who has the ability to accept or reject an offer - your lawyer cannot make that choice for you. If you choose to go to court, both sides (your attorney and the insurer) will present their cases and the jury will make the final decision.
For more information, read Should I Settle or File a Lawsuit?