Car accidents can be devastating experiences for all involved. There are physical injuries, property damage, and financial consequences like loss of wages.
If the insurance companies involved in your case cannot settle, it may go to trial. A court trial can be an overwhelming experience, and having a team of legal experts on your side is important.
When a person is injured in a car accident, they need financial compensation for their medical bills, property damage, and other expenses. They can recover these damages by settling with the insurance company or going to court. Taking the case to trial is riskier but can result in a larger award. Before the trial begins, your attorney will file a lawsuit complaint.
Jurisdiction refers to the legal authority of a court or other body to hear a particular case. State courts have jurisdiction over car accident cases. Federal courts can also resolve these claims if the accident involves issues that pertain to federal law, such as intellectual property, taxation, or civil rights. The other type of case that can be heard in federal court is one where the claims involve diversity of citizenship between two or more parties.
Car accident cases are considered tort cases and can be settled outside court or taken to trial. Settlements take less time, but if negotiations aren’t successful, the case may need to be contested in court.
In a trial, the plaintiff and defendant (through their attorneys) present evidence through witness testimony and relevant documentation. The jury or judge will decide the outcome of the case based on this evidence.
If your car accident case goes to court, both sides can question witnesses on direct examination and use cross-examination. Defendants can also introduce photographs, documents, and other physical evidence to undermine the plaintiff’s claims.
Once both sides have given opening statements, the jury will be chosen, and the trial will begin. The plaintiff has the burden of proving their claim by a preponderance of evidence—which means that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s actions or omissions caused the accident and injuries. This is a lower standard than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The next step in a car accident case is called discovery. This is where both sides gather and review evidence that supports their claims and defenses in the lawsuit. Each side will send the other written questions (called interrogatories) and requests to produce documents. They will also take each other’s depositions. Depositions are in-person question-and-answer sessions where each side’s attorney asks other parties questions under oath.
A police report is often a critical piece of evidence that contains important information about the accident. It includes a summary of the incident, evidence found at the scene, witness statements, and more.
A request for admissions is a less common form of discovery but is useful to zero in on any disputed facts in the case. The party sending the request can ask for admittance of specific facts such as the amount of insurance coverage, the date and time of the car accident, and other information that shouldn’t be contested.
Once both parties in a car accident case agree to settle, getting your check can take just a few weeks. This is significantly faster than the months to years it can take to get a court-ordered judgment after a trial.
Your attorney will draft, write, and send a demand letter that outlines the full extent of your damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Your attorney may also hire experts like life care planners, economists, and vocational rehabilitation specialists to paint a clear picture of your damages.
The guilty party and their insurance company may accept the demands or make a counteroffer, leading to further negotiations that often result in a settlement. The case may proceed to trial if no acceptable settlement offer can be agreed upon. A jury trial is unpredictable; predicting how much a sympathetic jury will award you for your injuries and pain and suffering is difficult.