If you are injured in an accident, and you decide to sue the negligent party, you are usually much better off hiring an attorney to represent your interests. He or she (hopefully) specializes in injury law and will know the ins and outs of representing your claim. He or she will gather information, file documents according to strict deadlines, and advise you whether to accept a settlement offer, if one is on the table, or go to trial.
Statistically speaking, most lawsuits do not end up going to trial. It is frequently quicker and cheaper to settle out of court. Settlements can be proposed at any time during a lawsuit, so it is possible that your trial will have already started before a settlement offer is made. More likely than not, however, the trial will be over before it begins: only 1 in every 20 cases is decided by a judge or jury.
Should your attorney decide to try and settle out of court, he or she will likely wait for you to reach your maximum medical improvement before making a demand. The demand is the amount of money you are willing to accept from the negligent party to avoid going to trial. Maximum medical improvement is the point at which you have received all medical bills related to your injury; once that figure has been determined, your attorney will seek the highest amount of compensation possible for you.
In the event that both parties cannot agree on who caused the accident or cannot agree on the amount of compensation that should be provided, the case will likely have to go to trial for a judge or jury to resolve.