When a car accident leads to a lawsuit, you should understand what this process will be like. For the average person, dealing with legal matters is not simple or easy to do. However, highly educated and competent Car Accident Attorneys know exactly what is needed and how to proceed with these often complex cases to obtain justice and the best possible outcome for their clients.
Most lawsuits over car accidents are initiated when someone is unable to get a satisfactory settlement from an insurance company. The person who was wrongly injured or who incurred damage by another driver who was careless or negligent may have difficulty obtaining payment for their claims. In that case, turning to an experienced Car Accident Attorney is an excellent decision.
Car Accidents Start the Process
A lawsuit opportunity begins with the car accident. Accidents can happen at any time, any place. There may be multiple vehicles involved, or it could be a one-car incident. People run into objects like trees, poles and animals, all of which can cause major vehicle damage and injuries or death. Regardless of how the accident began, when the end result is property damage or personal injury, the process of a potential lawsuit is underway.
Elements of the Lawsuit
There are various elements to a lawsuit, but for car accidents, this includes damage, injury, expenses, liability and negligent behavior. If there are no injuries or damage, there is no real basis for trying to collect compensation because no harm was done. On the other hand, in some accidents, there are huge amounts of damage, people are injured or killed, and the vehicles receive great or total damage. Injured persons need medical treatment and care, rehabilitation and they may also have work losses and other personal injury claims to pursue.
One of the first things your attorney will try to determine is liability for the accident. Who is responsible for causing the accident and why or how did it happen? The insurance company of the responsible party should be paying for claims that result from a car accident that their insured person caused. There are occasions when the insurance company is reluctant to pay claims or will not pay. This can lead to a lawsuit. If a settlement is not reached, the case may proceed into litigation.
Other elements of any claim to be used in a lawsuit also need to be detailed prior to starting the lawsuit, including injuries (medical costs), expenses (now and future), and other personal injury or damage claims.
Alternatives to Lawsuits
During the pre-trial process, you may pursue claims through several alternative methods for settlement. This can not only save you time, but money also and get your case closed without going through a lengthy lawsuit process in court.
- Mediation – Disputing parties meet with a trained mediator. The parties voluntarily come to an agreement.
- Arbitration – According to a pre-meeting agreement, a non-partial arbitrator, similar to a judge, makes a binding decision after working with the parties to resolve the dispute.
- Consumer Complaints – A complaint to the state insurance department may make the insurance company take action to pay for claims. They are licensed and need to comply with fair play rules.
Options for Court
If resolution cannot be achieved prior to moving up to filing a lawsuit, you still have a few options for court. You decision is influenced by the amount of damage claims you seek to recover, time limits and how aggressively you want to fight the other party.
- Small Claims Court – When damage claims are smaller, usually around $5,000 or less, small claims court may be a good option. You can represent yourself, a judge makes the decision and the process is quite fast and simplified. There are no formal rules for presenting evidence. The smaller amount for claims is different in every state, ranging from $1,500 to $25,000 maximum.
- Civil Court Lawsuit – To file a regular lawsuit in civil court, you are best served to have your own professional legal advisor, an experienced car accident attorney. You are likely to recover more when you have an attorney presenting your case. The pre-trial phase allows for “discovery” procedures to exchange information about the case with the other side. Next comes the trial, and in some cases a later appeal may be made to change the decision. Civil Court lawsuits are filed in the state where the accident happened. This process is slower, more expensive and rules apply, compared to small claims court cases.
Working with an Attorney
If you have never worked with an attorney before, you may wonder what this process will be like. There are several things to consider once you decide you need professional legal representation.
- Who to Hire – Attorneys are not like one-stop shopping malls. Most specialize in selected areas of law practice, such as Personal Injury, Business Law or Family Law. For a car accident, you will get good results from an experienced Personal Injury Attorney. You want an attorney who has a good track record of wins for cases like yours.
- What to Expect – An experienced car accident attorney should work quickly to determine the elements and evidence needed to win your case. You should feel comfortable working with this person, and they should always treat you with respect. You should get answers promptly, either from the attorney or a staff member. The lawyer will explain the legal processes you will go through and accompany you to court or meetings with the other parties to the lawsuit at mediation or arbitration.
- Lawsuit Fees – Most car accident cases are taken on a contingent fee basis. If you do not win your case, there is no fee. When a lawyer agrees to take your case, you can have confidence that they expect to win. You may still have to pay some small office fees, like for copying documents, etc. A typical fee taken from a winning settlement is about one-third.
When you understand the process involved in a car accident lawsuit, you are prepared for that experience. You can get better results, faster, when you work with an experienced car accident attorney. Take advantage of a free consultation to discuss your case in advance.