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Assuming that both parties are represented by competent counsel, cases are tried only when the opposing parties cannot agree on the value of the case. The value of a case depends on the damages, the proof of causation, and the robustness of the law under which the claim is made. In medical malpractice cases, the law is usually certain, so the disagreements center on damages and causation. Cases in which these disagreements are not resolved during pretrial preparation generally involve unusual facts. Trials are extraordinary events. They are expensive and time-consuming, and verdicts are subject to pressures beyond the issues in the case.

Movies and television give the impression that trials move quickly and are interesting; the testimony of witnesses is fast-paced and stimulating; most deceptively, the trial quickly follows the crime or accident precipitating it. In real life, trials are tedious, emotionally draining, and generally bewildering to plaintiffs and defendants alike. This conflict between expectation and reality aggravates the anxiety accompanying litigation.

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