HOW DOES A CAR ACCIDENT LAWSUIT WORK? (FILING, PROCESS, AND FAQS)
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, you're probably wondering about your options: settle or sue?
Indeed, every car accident victim who is struggling to pay their medical bills or cover the costs of property damage (not to mention recover from the pain and suffering from the ordeal) should pursue rightful compensation either with the insurance company as a settlement or directly with the motorist who caused the motor vehicle accident, as in a lawsuit.
If you're wondering about your rights to seek fair compensation, contact a car accident attorney and schedule a free case evaluation. Bruscato is a personal injury law firm specializing in car accident cases and personal injury.
Contact us today and learn if filing a car accident lawsuit is the best strategy for your situation.
Should You File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident Injury?
If you've never been in an accident before, you might think filing a lawsuit is the obvious thing to do—you may even think it's the only thing to do.
For example: let's say some negligent driver ran into you in at an intersection and caused you severe damages and injuries. Maybe it's because, as a society, we've seen so many courtroom dramas on television that we think gripping lawsuits are the automatically best option. Well, the fact is, most car accident cases are actually resolved with a settlement.
Settling out of court can be advantageous for a few reasons:
You can avoid high court fees.
You can avoid the hassle of going to trial.
You can avoid the risk of losing.
And look, you'll probably receive compensation sooner than if you brought your case to court.
That being said, settling isn't always the best decision. Especially when you stand to receive significantly more financial compensation trying your case in a court of law. Below I'll explain when it might make sense to escalate your car accident case to a lawsuit.
First, you should know that car accident lawsuits are considered personal injury cases. Millions of car accidents happen every year on American roads, but not every crash is grounds for a lawsuit.
The main factor that determines whether a lawsuit is on the table is fault. If there is proof that the other driver was at-fault for the accident that caused your injuries, you may be able to sue.
As I mentioned, settling is often preferable over suing, but the main reason to file a car accident lawsuit instead of settling is, quite simply, the money. Sometimes filing a lawsuit is the best way to seek maximum compensation for your accident.
Here are the core components of a car accident lawsuit:
Duty of care—This means that all drivers have a duty of care to other drivers on the road; it is everyone's duty to follow the traffic laws, drive safely, and respect our fellow drivers.
Breached duty of care—In order to sue someone, you need proof that they violated the duty of care. This often means proving a traffic safety violation.
Consequences—Next, there must be proof of the damages or injuries resulting from the crash; you need to prove that the collision directly caused these consequences.
Proof of cause—Lastly, you need to prove the at-fault driver's negligence caused the crash, which directly caused your damages or car accident injury.
How Does a Car Accident Lawsuit Work? (4 Stages)
Most personal injury claims won't instantly be filed as lawsuits. Instead, your personal injury lawyer will work with you and the respective parties to assess the conditions of the accident, gather the facts, understand the full picture, then make a decision: settle or sue.
Below I have outlined the 4 stages of a car accident court case, beginning with pre-litigation evidence gathering.
Stage 1: Pre-Litigation
Let's start at the beginning. After you've been in an auto accident, the first thing to do is seek medical attention and gather evidence. The evidence you accumulate at this early stage will be used throughout the duration of your case—and your lawyer will need as much evidence as possible to prove the at-fault driver's negligence.
Collect all your documents relating to the crash. These documents will likely include pieces of information, including medical records, police reports, photos, and evidence of the crash scene, bills, and pay stubs.
Contact a Lawyer
Once the dust has settled after a car crash—after the accident scene has been cleared, you've tended to your injuries and gathered evidence—it's time to seek expert legal advice.
Whether you've decided to file a lawsuit or a settlement, or if you are undecided, an auto accident attorney can help you make the right decision to pursue maximum compensation. Schedule a free case evaluation with Bruscato today.
Documentation and Investigation
One of the first things an attorney will do is request access to your medical files and evidence of the crash. The point of this step is to understand the extent and severity of your accident. The attorney's goal is to use evidence and documentation to paint a colorful picture of what exactly you experienced and the consequences you're dealing with as a result of the accident.
Next, the attorney may investigate your case in-depth. This could mean investigating the crash scene in person, speaking with the authorities, conducting interviews, and obtaining other documentation surrounding the car accident. It could also mean seeking the help of experts like medical specialists, mechanics, or engineers to consult on your case.
All of this investigation is done in an attempt to prove negligence on behalf of the driver who caused the crash and your resulting injuries.
Insurance Company Negotiation
Once your attorney has reviewed documentation and investigated your case, they will negotiate with insurance adjusters to settle the case without going to court. Negotiations can be intense, which is why it's often in your interest to have an experienced attorney to handle this for you.
Auto insurance claims are often resolved after lengthy negotiation, but if they attempt to lowball you on the settlement amount or refuse to offer a fair settlement, your case may be escalated to a car accident lawsuit.
Stage 2: File Lawsuit
When negotiations with the insurance company have failed, and settling is no longer an option, it's time to formally file a lawsuit. This is done by filing a formal legal complaint to the court and the liable party.
Once the complaint has been filed and the defendant has been served your complaint papers, they'll have a set amount of time to respond to the complaint. Remember, a personal injury lawyer can file on your behalf—you need not lift a finger if you don't want to.
After the formal complaint has been filed (the lawsuit) and a hearing date has been set, it's time to move on to the discovery stage.
Stage 3: Discovery Process
The discovery process is a formal procedure where both parties in the lawsuit share documents, evidence, and information. Your attorney will usually request information from the defendant and their lawyers in the form of written questions (called interrogatories).
Another way to collect information during the discovery process is through a deposition. During the investigation stage, your attorney may have contacted eyewitnesses or experts to help shed light on the conditions of the car accident. These individuals may be called upon for a deposition testimony, which is when you arrange for them to testify at a specific place and time.
These testimonies are formal statements taken under oath, they're recorded, and they may be used in court.
Lawsuits always involve a certain amount of risk (there are a winner and a loser, to put it crudely), which is why trial attorneys frequently attempt to settle before going to court.
If prior attempts to negotiate were unsuccessful, a mediator could be brought in to facilitate effective negotiations between the parties to a lawsuit. The mediator's job is to find an acceptable level of compromise between both parties—an agreeable common ground for a fair settlement on both sides.
If parties cannot reach a settlement, the case will go to trial.
Stage 4: Go To Trial
The last stage of the car accident lawsuit process is a courtroom trial.
Remember, even if your case goes to trial, you can still decide to settle. You are always able to accept the settlement offer at any time.
When your case is tried in court, a jury trial will listen to both sides' arguments and evidence. Your trial may last up to several weeks, but once the jury comes to a verdict, the trial is over.
What Can You Recover from a Car Accident Case?
In a car accident lawsuit, you may be eligible to recover damages including:
Pain and suffering
Rehabilitation or physical therapy
Loss of consortium
Loss of earning potential
The damages you may be able to recover depend entirely on the details of your case.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you figure out what you can recover and how much your settlement is worth.
Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accident Lawsuits
Should You Settle or Sue in Court?
Many people choose to settle a car accident claim if at all possible.
The reasons for doing this are many. Settling a case before going to court often means that you can receive compensation sooner, you can avoid high attorney fees, you can skip multiple courtroom proceedings, and lastly, you can avoid the potential for an unpredictable jury decision.
An experienced car accident attorney can help you negotiate with the insurance adjuster to receive fair compensation for your injury. They should also be prepared to escalate your case to a lawsuit in the event the insurance company lowballs your offer and won't back down.
Ask yourself: do you stand to receive a higher payout from a lawsuit or settling out of court?
When deciding whether to settle or sue, remember that many states have a no-fault insurance option. This is where the insurer pays the medical insurance coverage no matter which driver caused the accident.
How Long Does a Car Accident Lawsuit Take?
A car accident lawsuit can take weeks, months, even up to a year to run its course.
Many factors influence how long it takes for a lawsuit to resolve. Some of these factors include the details and severity of the accident and your injuries, the number of parties involved, the negotiations with the insurance company, pre-trial motions, setting court dates, and many more.
Speak with a personal injury attorney to get an idea of how long your case may take to resolve and what you stand to receive in compensation.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?
Once your accident has taken place, the clock starts ticking for the amount of time you have to file a claim.
The statute of limitations in the state of Louisiana is just one year. That means you have one year starting on the day of the accident to file your car accident claim and decide to either settle the case with the insurance company or escalate the case to a lawsuit and sue.
How Much is a Car Accident Lawsuit Worth?
It is not possible to calculate the worth of a car accident lawsuit with complete accuracy.
That said, a few simple rules of thumb can be useful for making an educated estimation of how much compensation one stands to receive in a lawsuit.
In general, it's reasonable to expect the amount of compensation you receive to cover the costs of your economic damages (medical bills, property damage, car repairs, lost wages, any damages with a clear dollar amount). Estimating the cost of pain and suffering is another story. This is where it entirely depends on the details of the case and the accident victim's experience.
As a rough estimate, you can take the cost of your economic damages and multiply them by a factor of one up to five to get a rough number that takes non-economic damages such as pain and suffering into account.
What Types of Car Accident Lawsuits are There?
There are three types of lawsuits you may file if you've suffered a car accident.
Personal Injury Lawsuit—This is a type of lawsuit you'd file if you were injured due to someone else's negligence. A personal injury case involves filing a personal injury claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company or filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver themselves.
Product Liability Lawsuit—Product liability is a type of personal injury law that refers to a personal injury caused by a defective or dangerous product. In auto accidents, this might mean a malfunctioning or defective part in the vehicle that caused the car accident.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit—If you have lost someone to a car accident due to another driver's negligence, then you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek fair compensation for your loss.
Speak with a Car Accident Lawyer in Monroe Today
If you've been injured in a car crash and need the help of an experienced car accident attorney, John Bruscato is here to help.
Bruscato Law Firm has a strong track record and a decade of experience winning car accident settlements and lawsuits in the Monroe, Louisiana area.
Contact Bruscato today for a free consultation, and let's find out what your case is worth together.