If you were involved in a car accident, then you may be struggling to recover from your physical injuries, cope with the emotional trauma you experienced, and make ends meet financially. Many car accident victims find that filing a legal claim against the parties responsible for their accident helps them get the financial support they need during this difficult time. Filing a car accident lawsuit with the help of an experienced personal injury attorney in your area can give you the financial support you need.
You may assume that filing a lawsuit means you will have to go to court and endure a lengthy trial. However, that is not often the case. In fact, a large number of car accident claims are settled outside the courtroom through informal negotiations. You and your attorney will work with insurers to agree to a fair settlement that both parties can live with.
In cases where settlement is not possible, you and your attorney will proceed to trial. The first step is to file a formal complaint, which will name all parties involved, explain the facts of the case, and list your legal claims. For example, a victim in a rear-end collision may assert a claim for negligence against the other driver, contending that the other driver followed too closely and should therefore be liable for the victim’s medical expenses.
Once you officially serve the other driver with your complaint, you and your attorney will enter the discovery phase, during which you will request all necessary information and documents from the other party. You will then go to trial, when both you and the other driver will have a chance to present their case. Both sides will be permitted to present evidence, question and cross-examine witnesses, and make closing arguments. Once both cases have been presented, the selected jury will render a verdict based on the judge’s instructions to the jury. The court will then enter a final judgment, generally based on the jury’s verdict. If you are awarded damages, the final judgment will typically state the final amount owed to you by the defendant/other driver.
Should a car accident claim be settled?
Litigation following a personal injury car accident can take a long time to resolve. After a person has recovered from their accident-related harm enough to speak with an attorney and file their lawsuit, they must abide by the notice periods set by the state before their case may move forward. Litigation is an excellent path for many individuals who wish to be made whole after becoming car accident victims, but some individuals choose to settle their claims instead of going to court.
A settlement is effectively an agreement between the parties involved in an accident. A person who causes an accident and therefore inflicts harm on their victim may offer to settle the victim’s claims to get out from under the liability they hold. They may offer their victim a sum of money in order to avoid litigation, and in exchange the victim must release their right to sue the other party on their claims in the future.
A settlement may provide a victim with compensation faster than litigation, but a settlement may not always be in a victim’s best interests. For victims who incur significant medical costs because of their injuries, a settlement may not be enough to even get them back on their feet. Individuals should discuss their settlement options with their attorneys before entering such agreements. By doing so, they can obtain a full assessment of the strength of their case and their likelihood of succeeding at trial, thereby allowing them to conduct an appropriate analysis as to the appropriateness of accepting a settlement offer.
Different car accident claims can resolve in different ways. A settlement may be an option for some but not helpful for others. As with all posts on this blog, readers should not use the contents of this blog as legal advice. This post provides information only. Those interested in learning more about how to pursue a legal claim can reach out to an attorney of their choosing, if they so desire.
Understanding The Car Accident Injury Lawsuit Process
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.