What Happens When You File a Car Accident Lawsuit?
by Dan Reo | Last Updated: April 12, 2018
If you’re in a car accident and you suffer from serious injuries such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you may be entitled to seek compensation for your damages in a car accident lawsuit. If your case is successful, you could receive funds to help cover your medical expenses and to help you while you’re unable to work.
You may wonder just what happens if you decide to pursue a claim. What are the stages of a car accident lawsuit?
What’s Involved with Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit?
If you decide to file a car accident lawsuit, the first step is to check with your auto accident lawyer. He or she can help guide you through the entire process and will make sure to explore every angle in an effort to help you win your case.
It’s important to do this as soon after the accident as you can, as most states have a “statute of limitations” that limits the time you have to file a lawsuit. If you wait too long, you may no longer be able to file.
If you have a case, your attorney may file a complaint in court. The complaint will include the allegations you are making against the other driver(s) or against another defendant. It may also include the amount of money you’re seeking and will explain why you deserve to be compensated for your injuries.
The defendant—usually the other driver and his or her insurance company—will then have a set amount of time to respond to your complaint. In that response, the defendant is likely to deny the claims (though they can also accept them), and may also offer their own counterclaims, in an attempt to prove the other driver’s innocence in the accident, and/or to show how your behavior contributed to it.
Meanwhile, the insurance company will conduct an investigation, and your car accident attorney will also investigate all the facts and evidence. This is why it’s important to gather as much evidence at the site of the accident as you can, including photographs, notes taken soon after the accident, and names and contact information of the others involved, including witnesses.
Other pieces of evidence typically examined include:
- Police reports
- Statements from witnesses
- The other driver’s statements
- Your medical records
- The location of the accident and all surrounding details
- Evidence of property and other financial damages
- Social media accounts
You May be Able to Reach a Car Accident Settlement
In addition to examining evidence related to your case, your car accident attorney may also consult with experts to help support your position. These may include individuals like your doctor, and an accident reconstruction specialist, who can create a digital rendering of the accident.
If the other driver was drunk or distracted, there may be experts who can help confirm that information. If there was a geographical feature believed to be a factor in the accident, like a construction project, a civil engineer may be called upon to explain how that increased the danger.
While the investigation is proceeding on both sides, the defendants may file motions in an attempt to move your case to a different court, or to get it dismissed. If the case continues, there will be a trial date set, after which both sides will prepare for that trial. The judge may also order both sides into mediation, in the hopes that they can reach a settlement agreement prior to the trial.
Most car accident lawsuits are settled before trial, so if both sides can agree, you won’t have to go to court. If you are not satisfied with the settlement negotiations, you may be able to go ahead to trial. After both sides present their evidence, the jury will decide the verdict.
The whole process can be complicated, but if you choose a reputable and experienced car accident attorney, that process will be smoother for you.