Car accidents happen all the time for all kinds of reasons. However, when a car accident occurs due to a driver’s negligence or illegal behavior, an injured driver can seek compensation for any damages their dangerous behavior caused. For example, if a driver is under the influence of alcohol and runs a red light, slamming into the side of another driver who is operating their vehicle safely and legally, the drunk driver will likely face criminal penalties for DUI in addition to civil liability for the injured driver’s damages.
Filing a lawsuit for a car accident injury is a more complex process than many drivers realize. While auto insurance exists to provide relief to drivers who suffer injuries and property damage, many auto insurance policies will fail to cover the full extent of a victim’s damages after a serious accident. If you or someone you love experiences a serious car accident, you should know what to expect when it comes to the legal process of securing compensation for your losses.
Dealing with Insurance
An insurance claim is typically the first stop on the road to recovery after a car accident. California follows a fault-based system for handling car accidents, so all licensed drivers in California must carry personal auto insurance policies that provide minimum coverage for different types of damages:
- California auto insurance must provide at least $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident with $30,000 minimum coverage per accident.
- The policy must offer at least $5,000 minimum property damage liability coverage.
- The policy must include uninsured motorist bodily injury liability coverage in the amounts of $15,000 or more per person and $30,000 or more per accident.
- The policy must also include $3,500 or more in uninsured motorist property damage liability coverage.
A California driver may purchase auto insurance policies that only provide the bare minimum coverage amounts required by law to save money on monthly premiums. However, they are more likely to incur civil liability for damages if their insurance does not fully cover the cost of an accident they caused. In the event an injured driver cannot fully recover with an insurance claim, the injured driver may proceed with a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
The Complaint and the Response
When an injured driver files a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent driver, the injured driver becomes the plaintiff in the lawsuit. With the help of a personal injury attorney, they will file a formal complaint with the local court and officially serve the defendant with the Complaint notice. This provides the defendant an opportunity to respond, and this opens the door to settlement negotiation. Unless the defendant faces criminal penalties for the accident, such as would be the case for a DUI accident, the two parties are likely to proceed to settlement negotiation.
Settlement and Litigation
The plaintiff’s Complaint will outline the full scope of the plaintiff’s claimed damages and the evidence supporting those damages. The defendant may agree or disagree with some or all of these claimed damages, and the two parties and their legal representatives will engage in settlement negotiations. In most cases, a settlement is preferable to a drawn-out trial process and is generally less expensive for both sides. However, if settlement negotiations fail, the case will proceed to litigation and trial.
Litigation for a car accident lawsuit can take months or even years to resolve, depending on the complexity of the case. All parties involved must disclose their evidence to one another through the Discovery process, and the plaintiff and the defendant will have the opportunity to file pretrial motions for various reasons. When the case finally makes it before a judge and jury, the court will deliberate on the available evidence and testimony and deliver a ruling that adheres to California state law.
Hire Legal Representation as Soon as Possible
If you or a loved one suffered injuries and economic losses due to the negligent actions of another driver, you have the right to pursue compensation through a personal injury claim. However, it is important to acknowledge that these cases often take time, and your success in your claim may hinge on hiring the right personal injury attorney for representation.
The attorneys at Easton & Easton have more than 100 combined years of legal experience and have secured more than $100,000,000 in damages for our clients during the past five years alone. We can put our experience, resources, and legal acumen to work for you in your car accident injury claim. Contact our team today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced and compassionate Orange County personal injury lawyer.