Bagen Law Firm | April 19, 2023 | Car Accidents
After a car crash due to someone else’s negligence, you must take legal action to seek compensation for your losses. No two collisions are the same, and you will need a personalized approach to your claim. There might be two or more parties and insurance companies to contend with. Some insurance companies are willing to settle, while others are not, and your car accident lawyer must file a car accident lawsuit in civil court.
Never wait to begin the process, as it can take longer than you imagine to resolve a car accident claim. Begin protecting your rights with a free case evaluation with a car accident attorney today.
Seeking Medical Attention After an Accident
Everyone who believes they have some type of injury following a crash should get immediate medical attention. Even if you do not need an ambulance, you should head to the emergency room if you feel any pain, confusion, or other symptoms of injuries.
A medical diagnosis is critical to your health and overall prognosis. Medical records constitute vital evidence in your car accident lawsuit. Failure to get medical treatment immediately can complicate your claim.
Hiring a Car Accident Attorney
Your next step after a crash should be calling a local car accident attorney. An experienced lawyer will review your situation and determine if you have a legitimate claim. They will review how your accident occurred, who might be liable, the severity of your injuries, and more. Your attorney will apply the car accident liability laws of your state to advise the best way to proceed.
Often, the first step in a valid claim is filing one or more insurance claims. Never communicate with insurers, file claims, or accept a settlement without having legal representation. Doing so risks ending your case far too early – and for far too little.
Filing a Car Accident Claim
Once you have legal representation, your next step is usually to file an insurance claim, which your lawyer will do for you. Lawyers can speak to the insurance adjuster and negotiate a fair settlement for your claim. This can end your legal journey if the adjuster offers a fair settlement and you accept. When that happens, you will have your check within a few weeks. However, claims do not always resolve this easily, and many claims will take additional time and work.
Some reasons you might face challenges during the insurance process include:
- The insurer challenges the cause of your injuries
- The insurer challenges the severity of your injuries
- The policy has lapsed for non-payment
- The driver wasn’t on the policy
- The insurer thinks you caused the accident.
- They don’t believe you suffered an injury
Your lawyer can file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court when the insurance company denies your claim or refuses to offer a fair amount of compensation. If the insurance company makes it apparent that they are not willing to negotiate further at this time, then litigation is usually necessary.
Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit
When the insurance company refuses to pay, and you have a viable claim, your lawyer will file a lawsuit, and the case goes into litigation. You must now prove to the court why you deserve compensation from the insurance company, and the litigation process follows strict rules and procedures.
When your lawyer files a lawsuit, the insurance company and defendant will receive a copy of the complaint. Within the complaint, there is an allotted time the defendant has to respond. When the insurance company does nothing, your lawyer can file a default judgment, which is rare.
When the insurance company responds, they will outline why they don’t believe the plaintiff deserves compensation. If liability is not in question, they will outline why you deserve less compensation than you seek.
Throughout the lawsuit process, there will be various opportunities to settle your case. Your attorney will continually engage in settlement negotiations with the insurance company. With all these opportunities to settle, most car accidents rarely get to trial.
Litigation sets the wheels in motion, and a major part of the process is discovery. Each party requests and exchanges evidence with the other, so everyone can see the strengths and weaknesses of the case. This can help to encourage pre-trial settlement negotiations.
Both lawyers will request and share information they deem necessary.
Some information they will look for during discovery includes:
- Depositions: Lawyers sit down with relevant witnesses from the other side and ask them questions. Lawyers can ask any question they think is appropriate and helpful to their case. Since both attorneys are present, objections to specific questions are common. Unlike cross-examination, you will likely need to answer the question even over an objection. Information from the deposition will help prepare the case and determine witness credibility.
- Interrogatories: These are questions in writing that your lawyer can use to gather information to build your case. Upon receipt of interrogatories, the responding party will have limited time to respond.
- Notice to produce: This is a request from one lawyer to turn over specific documentation and evidence. When the insurance company lawyer requests documents that cross the line, your car accident attorney will file motions and objections. They can ask almost anything, but there are some limits.
Both parties usually conduct independent investigations to gather evidence regarding the cause of the accident and your injuries.
Typical evidence in car accident lawsuits include:
- Official reports with officer testimony
- Photographs of the scene and vehicles
- Video footage
- Witness statements
- Medical records
- Driver testimony
- Social media activity
- Evidence regarding your financial damages
The more evidence in a lawsuit, the more extensive the discovery process can be.
Sometimes, your attorney will deem it necessary to hire experts to prove your damages and fault for the crash. Many experts are available that can help or hurt your case. The insurance company might also hire experts, and so can your car accident lawyer.
Some experts that your lawyer can call are your doctor, who is in charge of your care and prognosis, or other medical professionals who treat your type of injury. These experts can testify to the severity of your injury and the effects you feel. The insurance company can also send you to their doctors for an assessment that they might try to use against you.
An accident reconstruction specialist can create a digital rendering of the collision. They will need evidence from the scene to make these depictions. They might use weather and traffic information to show how these factors led to the accident. They can give their opinion on how the accident happened and who was to blame.
Another expert to bring in might be an engineer who can attest to vehicle malfunctions or road defects. These are not issues in every car accident case.
Your lawyer must follow specific procedures to have an expert testify in your lawsuit. They should know how to certify the expert, notify the court of the expected testimony, and prepare for any experts the insurance company plans to bring.
Your lawsuit can settle at any time. Once the insurance company sees the evidence you have to support your case, their attorneys might be willing to make a fair settlement. This gives them more control over the outcome than if you go to trial with a strong case.
Your attorney will continue to negotiate during and after discovery and can advise you if a fair offer is on the table. Many car accident lawsuits end at this stage, as the parties can meet in the middle and settle the matter out of court.
If settlement negotiations stall, you might try mediation – or in some jurisdictions, the court might require it. During meditation, all parties will be present and attempt to resolve the claim with a neutral third-party mediator. The impartial mediator is usually a retired lawyer or judge who will look at each side and facilitate cooperation.
Even if it is unsuccessful, mediation gives both parties an idea of how the judge or jury will see their case if they go to trial. If you reach a fair settlement in mediation, you can sign an agreement, and the lawsuit concludes.
When out-of-court settlement negotiations and mediation are unsuccessful, the next step is to schedule a trial. Your car accident lawyer should have been preparing for trial throughout the litigation process, just in case. A civil trial might be in front of a judge (bench trial) or a jury of your peers, depending on your circumstances.
Car accident trials are rare and only happen in cases where both sides are still too far apart to reach an agreement. The defendant might deny liability or have serious questions about your injuries and losses. Your attorney will present the strongest case possible in your favor in court.
Trials can be stressful and time-consuming, and there is a risk on both sides. You can go to trial and get more than anticipated or walk away with nothing. The judge or jury might order the insurance company to pay much more than you had requested for a settlement. Often, both sides agree to settle before the court reaches a verdict to minimize risk, but not always.
A trial involves each side presenting its case through physical evidence and witness testimony. Your lawyer will prepare you to take the stand if you plan to testify, but it can still be a nerve-racking experience.
The length of your trial will depend on the amount of evidence, witnesses, and presentations that come from both attorneys. A trial can last one day or several days, depending on the complexity of the evidence and the case in general.
If your lawsuit makes it to a verdict, the judge or jury will decide:
- Whether the insurance company should pay you compensation
- How much you deserve for your losses
- Whether they should impose punitive damages to punish unacceptable conduct
Limited time to file a lawsuit
Every state has deadlines set for accident victims filing lawsuits. If you fail to take legal action and file your case within the allotted time, you lose your ability to recover compensation. These laws are strict and have few exceptions. Any claimant who tries to file a lawsuit outside the statute can get a quick dismissal without the court even reviewing the facts of the matter.
The deadline begins from the accident date and differs by state. These deadlines range from one to six years across the United States. Your car accident lawyer is aware of these deadlines and will inform you when it’s time to decide to file a lawsuit. Your job is to start the legal process as soon as possible, so you never risk coming close to a deadline.
Potential lawsuit damages
Filing a car accident lawsuit means you are looking to recover compensation for your losses. Determining what you can recover is challenging and requires legal experience. Always allow your attorney to calculate the past and future damages you deserve.
Since each case is unique, what you can seek will differ from other claims.
Examples of lawsuit damages include:
- Medical bills
- Future medical costs
- Mental anguish
- Property damage
- Permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Lost income
- Loss of companionship
- Lost future earning potential
- Punitive damages
You can only receive punitive damages if you go to trial, as a judge or jury must award them. If the other party acted egregiously in your case, your car accident attorney might advise you to go to court to seek punitive damages.
Speak to a Local Car Accident Lawyer Today
Car accident lawsuits involve many complex legal processes. While liability for your car accident seems clear to you, the insurance company will find ways to complicate the process, delay your claim, and deny you full compensation. Your car accident attorney can build your case, file a lawsuit, and prepare for trial when necessary. Call for Gainesville personal injury lawyer for a free initial consultation today.