The Car Accidents Lawsuit Process
The motor vehicle accident lawsuit process can be quite stressful and frustrating. This article will help you gain a better understanding of the accident lawsuit process in connection with your car accident as well as a most boilerplate personal injury case.
If you have a personal injury case, you might be wondering what goes on in a typical case and what processes are involved in a personal injury lawsuit. This article will walk you through what to exempt from your auto accident personal injury lawsuit.
Immediately following an auto accident, the first thing you should do is seek medical treatment. Not only is going to the emergency room or urgent care center immediately after the accident the smart thing to do your health, it can also impact your personal injury claim because the insurance company, and potentially the jury, will assume your injuries are fabricated or not all that serious.
After seeking medical treatment, the next thing you may consider is hiring a good injury lawyer to pursue a bodily injury claim on your behalf. You should choose an attorney as soon as practical so your rights and interests are fully protected. However, you can settle a personal injury claim on your own behalf, but it is recommended that you retain legal counsel if you have suffered significant injuries and/or if there is a fatality involved in the accident.
Filing a bodily injury claim
Many smaller bodily injury or personal injury claims are settled prior to a lawsuit ever being filed in the court system. If the attorney thinks that the case can be settled, he / she will make a demand to the insurance company bodily injury adjuster. Otherwise, your attorney will file the lawsuit in the form of a summons and complaint. Generally speaking, if your claim involves a permanent injury or impairment, surgery, or complex fracture, a good attorney will not settle it before filing a lawsuit.
Starting a personal injury lawsuit
A civil court action is officially initiated by filing a summons and complaint with the applicable court.
It is important to remember that a lawsuit must filed within a specific time, from the date of the accident or injury, to preserve your right to sue and be heard in court. For example, in New York the statute of limitations for personal injury auto accident cases is 3 years. That means an injured person has three years from the date of the accident/injury to go to file a lawsuit against responsible person or persons in court.
The "Discovery Process"
The plaintiff (injury party) and defendant(s) (the person or persons responsible for the accident) exchange documents and other pertinent information about the issues relevant to the case by a process called discovery. Discovery can involve written questions (interrogatories, bill of particulars, etc.) which must be answered under oath; document production; and depositions, which are formally transcribed and sworn statements taken in front of a court reporter. The information is used in preparing the case for trial.
Dismissing a case before trial
In many cases, one or both of the parties will try to get the case "thrown of court" by filing a motion to dismiss. A party can file a motion for summary judgment or summary disposition. What happens here is, a party to the lawsuit will present to the court those issues that are not in dispute, either because the parties agree as to the facts, or because application of the law to the facts dictates a result. The theory is that, if a claim or lawsuit cannot possibly win, it is better for the judge to deal with it before wasting time or money. Unfortunately, motion practice can be lengthy and delay being assigned a date for case to come before a jury.
Mediation and Negotiation
As the discovery period ends, the attorney from both sides may engage in settlement discussions. Sometimes the lawyers can settle a case just by talking among themselves, but, in other cases, they will go to mediation. Mediation is a process in which both clients and both lawyers go in front of a mediator to try to settle the case.
If the parties do not reach an agreement, and if the matter is not dismissed by motion, the case will proceed to trial. In most civil cases, either party can choose to have a jury. The decision of whether to have a judge or jury is an extremely important one.
The Trial and Appeal Process
At trial, the attorneys present evidence and arguments for each side. The judge or jury will decide the unresolved issues. Once the judge or jury has reached a decision, the judge will order that judgment be entered for the party who wins.
A personal injury trial can last a day, a week, or even longer. The length may be increased because, in many states, trials are held for only half a day instead of over a full day.
Furthermore, trials are delayed all the time. Just because a case is scheduled for trial on a particular date does not guarantee the trial will actually occur on that date. Trials can be rescheduled because of the judge’s schedules, a witness may not be available to testify, an attorney may have an emergency, etc.
Either or both parties can appeal a judge's decision to a higher court. Also, remember that settlements usually cannot be appealed if both parties agree to their terms.
Call the At-fault Driver's Insurance Company
After you have opened a property damage claim with responsible driver's insurance companies, the insurance companies will attempt to assess fault. In a simple wreck such as a rear-end crash, the fault is easy to decide and the property claim can move forward quickly.The insurance company will send an adjuster to evaluate the damage to your vehicle or request that you take it to one of their repair facilities for an estimate within days of the accident. If the estimate to repair the vehicle exceeds 75% of the value of the vehicle then typically the insurer will declare your vehicle a total loss and pay you for the market value or actual cash value of your vehicle.