The Lawsuit Process After a Car Accident
Have you recently been in a serious car accident? Were you the driver at fault? Or were you the victim? Did you sustain injuries that required medical treatment? Will the insurance company cover your expenses or will your case end in a lawsuit? How long does a lawsuit take?
Car accidents are a scary occurrence. If you have been in one, you likely have a lot of questions. The path to receiving compensation can be a confusing one. If you’ve been in an accident and are now facing a lawsuit, there are important steps you need to take.
We’ve compiled a list of steps for you, with details about each step. Following these steps in order and on time will help the lawsuit go as well as possible for you.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps from accident to lawsuit. We will also help you understand how to face a lawsuit, should you find yourself involved in one.
Seek medical treatment for your injuries.
If you sustain physical injuries, you’ll want to seek medical treatment right away. We recommend going to the hospital within 24 hours of the accident. If you wait longer than that, it will be harder to prove that your injuries resulted from the car accident.
For all the opposing party knows, you hit your head and got a concussion after the accident. And they will have a field day using that against you. Waiting any length of time to seek medical attention will make it harder for you to settle. You deserve compensation for your injuries, so go to the hospital right away.
Hire an attorney.
Don’t hire the first attorney you find. It’s important to find an attorney who has the proper experience to represent you. This may require reading reviews and talking to people who have been in your position.
This means conducting research. Keep looking until you find an attorney who can get you the compensation you deserve. This could take a few days or a few weeks. We invite you to check out our resources here at Lawsuit Info Center to help narrow your search.
As a rule of thumb, you should hire an attorney if your injuries caused you to miss several days of work. The same holds true if your injuries exceed $2,000.
If you are the driver who crashed into someone else, contact a lawyer right away. You’ll need the representation to limit your liability. If you don’t hire an attorney, you could be out hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Discuss the lawsuit with your attorney.
To decide whether they will represent you, the attorney will want to interview you. Please be honest with them; don’t hold any details back. Any information you leave out is ammunition for the opposing party.
Tell the attorney exactly what happened in the car accident, even if you were at fault. Your honesty will help them to better represent you and collect as much money for you as possible. Describe when, where, and how the accident took place. Describe everything that could have affected the accident. That includes the weather, traffic, and any kind of hazard.
Explain how you felt the moment the accident took place. Show them documentation of your injuries. Tell them how you feel now. Don’t exaggerate your injuries, but don’t make it sound like you feel better than you do, either.
Once your attorney has interviewed you, they will collect all the data and documents they can. That includes documentation of doctor visits and physical therapy appointments. Once they’ve collected everything–and this can take a few months–they will tell you if you have a case.
Trust the attorney if they tell you that they don’t think you have a case. They will be honest with you because some lawyers don’t get paid upfront. Instead, they earn a percentage of your settlement. So, taking on your case and representing you is a risk for them. They will only want to take on that risk if they think they can win for you.
Of course, you can always get a second opinion if you disagree with the attorney. In fact, it’s a good idea to meet with more than one attorney. This will help you decide the best fit for you and your needs. But if every attorney you meet with tells you that you don’t have a case, then you most likely don’t.
Understanding Demands and Negotiation
The whole point of a lawsuit is to collect damages for your losses and pain and suffering. In the same way that no one wants to get into a car accident, no one wants to deal with a lawsuit, either.
That’s why, sometimes, settlements take place outside of court. This can be easier for both parties if they come to a mutual agreement. If your attorney thinks you can settle outside of court, they will write a demand letter. The opposing party can accept or reject the demand. If they reject it, you’ll have to go to court and fight them there.
With injuries that paralyze or impair you, it is likely that your attorney will file a lawsuit. If you are in a wheelchair or you suffer from a severe injury like brain damage, expect that you’ll go to court.
Keep in mind that your attorney won’t write a demand letter until you have recovered as much as possible. You’ll be at that point when the doctor confirms this. It’s called Maximum Medical Improvement. It means that you are not likely to further recover. The attorney will wait until you’ve reached MMI to determine how much your case is worth.
The only exception to this is if you can’t afford to wait. If your settlement will pay bills or cover costs from not being able to work, the attorney won’t wait. You might not get as much from the settlement, though. Being in a car accident and pursuing a settlement can be a double-edged sword.
Be patient. It takes time.
Expect your recovery to take several months, if not longer. It’s impossible to recover from a car accident overnight. It’s a gradual process. Patience with the process will get you better results as your body recovers. And a good attorney will wait for you.
Once your attorney files a lawsuit, the waiting begins. Expect at least one full year before your case goes to trial. In some states, it takes even longer. Every state has different pre-trial laws to abide by. You can consult with your attorney to understand the process in your state.
Understanding the Discovery Process
Discovery allows you to investigate the opposing party’s argument. The law requires them to provide the requested documentation that you send them. The law also expects you to reciprocate that.
You will have to go through deposition with your attorney. This is where the opposing party questions you to find weaknesses on your side of the case.
Your attorney will coach you beforehand to prepare you for your deposition. Your attorney will also question the opposing party to find weaknesses in their side of the case.
Understanding Mediation and Negotiation
After the discovery process has ended, your attorney will negotiate for you. This often happens by your attorney discussing the lawsuit with the other attorney. If your attorney and the opposing party reach a mutual agreement, the case will end.
But, if you can’t settle via a negotiation, your attorney will hire a mediator. Mediation is another way of settling outside of court. It costs less money and takes less time, so it’s more ideal than a courtroom.
The mediator acts as the judge, determining how to resolve the lawsuit. It can take weeks for the mediator to make a decision. If you accept the mediator’s decision, it is legally binding.
Going to Trial
If you are unhappy with the mediator’s decision, you don’t have to accept it. You can still choose to go to court and have a judge make a verdict instead. This process isn’t guaranteed to be better, though.
Once your trial date is set, your attorney will help you prepare. But there’s no guarantee of when you will appear before the judge. Rescheduled trial dates are a common occurrence. And once your trial begins, it can take days or weeks to reach a verdict.
The long wait comes from trials only lasting a half-day. The half-day setting makes time spent in the courtroom more workable for everyone. Your attorney will have time to work on other cases. You can go buy groceries, get wine with friends, or take your kids to their soccer games.
But, the half-day setting is no fun if you want to get your verdict and go home. That’s unfortunately how it works, though.
At some point, your case will end, and you will leave with a verdict. The only question is what verdict you’ll get. That’s why it’s very important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney.
Examples Of Lawsuit Timelines
- Reagan rear-ended Thomas. He suffered severe whiplash from the impact of the crash. Many visits to the chiropractor resulted in bills that Thomas couldn’t afford to pay. Thomas sued Reagan as a result. The lawsuit lasted for a year. Throughout the year, additional documents were filed with the court system, and the trial date ended up rescheduled twice.
- Eliza was T-boned at an intersection where she had the right-of-way. She had a broken leg and needed surgery. She sued Robert, the driver who hit her, for the cost of her medical bills and for her pain and suffering. The lawsuits lasted for a year-and-a-half. Robert agreed to pay her medical costs, but he argued that her pain and suffering is extreme.
- Derek was on his way home from work when he was in a sideswipe collision. Another driver was in his blind spot, and when they tried to speed up and get out of his way, they collided. The insurance company decided that Derek was the driver at-fault. Susan, the driver he sideswiped, sued him for the damage to her car and for her pain and suffering. The lawsuit lasted for three years because the insurance companies dragged the process out.
- Emily ran a red light and hit another driver’s vehicle. While the accident was minor, he sprained his wrist and sued her for his medical bills. The lawsuit settled outside of court via a mediator.
- When the brakes stopped working on Ricky’s car, he was unable to stop at a red light. He smashed into the back of another car. Lydia, the other driver, sued Ricky for the damage and for her injuries. Ricky claimed he wasn’t responsible since his brakes weren’t working. The manufacturer argued that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle’s brakes. It took three years to prove that the brakes were faulty.
Find a Lawyer To Help You With Your Lawsuit
If you’re injured in a car accident, you need to seek medical attention right away. And as soon as you’re able to, you need to find an attorney to represent you. The opposing party will be in contact with their attorney, too. They’ll want to get out of as much liability as possible. Your attorney will fight for you, to get you everything you deserve.
The Lawsuit Info Center is here to help. We have a wealth of resources to help you find the right attorney to represent you. We invite you to scroll through our website to check out everything we have to offer. Get in touch with us today, free of charge. We will help you find the right attorney for your case and get the compensation that you deserve.