Guide to Car Accident Lawsuits (2022) – Forbes Advisor

Before litigation is necessary, your insurance company will attempt to settle the damages with the other parties involved. You or your attorney can contact the other party’s insurer, who will likely attempt to settle the claim.

Before agreeing to a settlement, get the terms and details in writing. Take the time to read and understand it, ask questions, and do your research to make sure it’s fair. Add up your vehicle damage and injury values ​​and ask your medical provider about expected medical expenses or limitations in the future. It is important to have any settlement offer reviewed by a lawyer who can assess the value of items such as lost wages and pain and suffering.

Receiving a settlement does not necessarily settle all claims, so if you anticipate future expenses that have not yet been determined or covered by the proposed settlement fee, ensure that the other party’s terms do not constitute a full and final settlement. For example, you have the right to settle your property claim separately, before settling your medical claim.

You can agree to the insurer’s terms and receive compensation in exchange for your agreement not to sue. If you are unable to reach an agreement on the terms, you may decide to take legal action for maximum compensation.

Starting a car accident lawsuit

From inception to resolution, the duration of a car accident case can take several months to several years. How long this will take depends on variables such as each party’s litigation strategy and the willingness of either party to agree to a settlement, which could arise at any time during the process.

Lawsuits for damages for losses related to a car accident are called civil lawsuits or civil actions. The rules for civil suits vary in each state, but the same format loosely applies.

First, the party initiating a lawsuit, known as the plaintiff, files a petition or complaint with the court. The responding party, the defendant, also responds and files documents with the court.

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Filing a car accident counterclaim

Regardless of who was responsible for a car accident, it is likely that more than one party involved left the scene with injuries or damage as a result of the incident. Even if one party files a lawsuit first, the other party may still be eligible to recover their individual damages accrued from the collision by filing a counterclaim.

If a claim is filed against you, you can respond, respond, and defend against that claim while simultaneously filing a counterclaim for damages for your injuries, property, emotional damages, and more.

Discovery in a car accident trial

The next stage of the trial is discovery, which allows both parties to exchange information and evidence related to their claims and defenses. This is probably the longest phase of the trial, as it requires the plaintiff’s and defendant’s legal teams to collect and review all documents related to the accident, such as photographs of the scene, the report of police, witness statements, medical records, medical expenses and more.

Upon discovery, either or both parties may also request interrogations, i.e. a list of approximately 30 written questions sent from one party to the other to be answered under oath and within a strict deadline.

Depositions in car accident cases

Depositions may also be taken as part of the discovery process. Depositions are another method of obtaining information about the car accident case, in which an attorney can ask a series of oral questions of any party with relevant information related to the lawsuit. Depositions can be taken from drivers and passengers involved in the accident, witnesses, investigating police officers, medical personnel who treated parties involved in the collision and more.

Car accidents and police reports

A police report is usually created at the scene of a car accident by a law enforcement officer. This essential piece of evidence includes a summary of the incident, evidence and facts gathered at the scene, statements from those involved in the accident, witness statements and other key information gathered by the officer during investigation.

Insurance companies and attorneys involved in your case will use the police report as an important piece of evidence to determine who is at fault and what damages you may be entitled to recover. It is an important piece of evidence both during discovery and at trial.

When you provide your story of the accident for the police report, you may not know the extent of your injuries, especially if you are in shock. Some soft tissue injuries in the neck and back may be masked by adrenaline at the time of the accident, and even if you feel fine at the time of the accident, you may not feel as good later. .

Rather than publicly declaring that you are uninjured, speak in the present tense so you don’t rule out undetected accident-related injuries or pain later, which could make your claim more difficult.

Auto Accident Settlements

A settlement can occur at any time, but for car accident cases, it most often occurs after discovery is complete. Often this is because a party learns or reveals important information that could potentially settle the case and help both parties avoid uncertain trial outcomes.

A party can try to win a case before trial by filing a motion for summary judgment. In this case, the party making the petition argues all the evidence in its favor, compares it to the evidence of the other party, and argues that the undisputed facts and the law prevent the opposing party from winning the case if they were going to on trial. . A final decision on summary judgment is made by a judge.

If the case is not settled at this stage, it will go to trial.

What to expect when a car accident case is tried

A car accident trial usually only lasts one or two days, although there are no rules on how long. These cases may be heard by a single judge, known as a trial bench, or may be tried before a jury. Some states require that a jury trial be requested at the time the initial complaint is filed. Once all the evidence is presented, the jury or judge makes a decision in the case.

If a party is not satisfied with the outcome of the trial, they can appeal. There are several levels of appeal, many of which are time-consuming and costly for all parties involved. A party may use an appeal as a tactic to coerce the other party into agreeing to a settlement, which may be less than they can expect to win at trial.

Additional litigation steps can extend the length of a car accident case by months or years.

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