Home Vehicle Accidents Auto Accident Lawsuit Guide 2022 – Forbes Advisor

Auto Accident Lawsuit Guide 2022 – Forbes Advisor

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Before any litigation is required, your insurance company will try to settle damages with the other parties involved. You or your lawyer can communicate with the other party’s insurer, who will likely try to settle the claim.

Before accepting a settlement, get the terms and details in written form. Take the time to read and understand it, ask questions and do your research to make sure it is fair. Add up the damage values of your vehicle and injuries and ask your medical care provider about anticipated medical expenses or limitations in the future. It is important to have any settlement offer reviewed by an attorney who can evaluate the value of components 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 proposed settlement fees, make sure the other party’s terms are not 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 return for your agreement not to file a lawsuit. If you are unable to reach an agreement of terms, you may decide to sue to pursue maximum compensation.

Starting a Car Accident Lawsuit

From beginning to resolution, the length of a car accident case could take several months to several years. How long it will take depends on variables such as each party’s litigation strategy and the willingness of either side to agree upon a settlement, which could happen at any time during the process.

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

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

Filing a Car Accident Counterclaim

Regardless of who was at-fault in a car crash, it is likely that more than one party involved left the scene with injuries or damages as a result of the incident. Even if one party files a lawsuit first, the other party can still be eligible for recovery of their individual damages accrued from the collision by filing a counterclaim.

If a claim is being made against you, you may respond, answer and defend against that claim while simultaneously making a counterclaim to recover damages for your injuries, property, emotional harm and more.

Discovery in a Car Accident Lawsuit

The next stage of the lawsuit is discovery, which allows both sides to exchange information and evidence related to their claims and defenses. This is likely the longest phase of the lawsuit, as it requires legal teams for both the plaintiff and the defendant to collect and review all documentation related to the accident, such as photographs from the scene, the police report, witness statements, medical records, medical bills and more.

During discovery, either or both sides may also request interrogatories, which is a list of 30 or so written questions sent from one party to another that are required to be answered under oath and on a strict deadline.

Depositions in Car Accident Cases

Depositions may also be taken as part of the discovery process. Depositions are another method to obtain information about the car accident case, in which an attorney may ask a series of oral questions to any party with pertinent information related to the lawsuit. Depositions may be taken of the drivers and passengers involved in the crash, witnesses, investigating police officers, medical personnel who provided treatment to 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 responding law enforcement officer. This critical piece of evidence includes a summary of the incident, evidence and facts gathered at the scene, statements from individuals involved in the crash, witness statements and other key information collected by the officer while performing the investigation.

The insurance companies and attorneys involved in your case will use the police report as a significant 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 the discovery phase and at trial.

When you are providing your account 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 neck and back injuries can be masked by the adrenaline at the time of the accident, and even though you feel fine at the time of the accident, you may not feel as well later.

Rather than making an on-the-record statement that you are not injured, speak in the present tense so that you do not foreclose undetected accident-related injuries or pain later, which could make your claim more difficult.

Auto Accident Settlements

A settlement can happen at any time, but for car accident cases, it most often occurs after discovery is complete. Frequently, this is due to one side learning or revealing important information that could potentially decide the case and help both sides avoid uncertain trial outcomes.

A party may try to win a case before trial by filing a motion for summary judgment. In this case, the party making the motion asserts all the evidence in their favor, compares it to the other side’s evidence, and argues that the undisputed facts and the law make it impossible for the opposing side to win the case if it went to trial. A final decision on a summary judgment is awarded by a judge.

If the case does not settle at this phase, it will move to trial.

What To Expect When a Car Accident Case Goes to Trial

A car accident trial typically only lasts one or two days, though there is no rule on how long it can take. These cases may be heard by a single judge, known as a bench trial, or could be tried before a jury. Some states require a jury trial be requested at the time the initial lawsuit complaint is filed. Once all the evidence is presented the jury or judge makes a determination in the case.

If one party is unsatisfied with the outcome of the trial, they may appeal. There are several levels of appeals, many of which are lengthy and expensive for all parties involved. A party may use an appeal as a tactic to coerce the other party into accepting a settlement, which may be a lesser sum than what they may 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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