Car Accident Lawsuit Process

Car Accident Lawsuit Process, Examples, Average Settlement Amounts, and How Much You Can Sue For etc

When involved in an accident, many questions may arise like:

Should I hire a lawyer?

Negotiate or file a lawsuit?

How much time will the whole car accident lawsuit process take?  

Is it worth the time and energy?

Is it better to opt for a settlement etc? 

Read on to learn more about auto accidents and the lawsuit process.

What is a car accident lawsuit?

According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2 million people are injured, and 32,000 people are killed each year due to car accidents.

These typically occur because of speeding, improper driving, drunk driving, and more. And when this happens you need to hire an experienced car wreck law firm to file a claim on your behalf. 

Most auto accident and personal injury claims settle through negotiations but there are times when negotiations won’t work and you and your attorney need to file a lawsuit at the court.

 This is known as a car accident lawsuit or personal injury lawsuit.

Your lawyer will be able to let you know whether you should initiate a lawsuit or whether you should opt for negotiations & settlements as the process for car accident lawsuits can be costly and time-consuming. 

Below are some of the important points to note when preparing for a car accident lawsuit:

  • Your lawyer drafts a formal complaint and files it in court.
  • You also need to gather the other driver’s complaint information.  You can get a copy of this with the help of a law enforcement officer or process server.
  • The driver, considered the defendant, has a certain fixed amount of time to reply to the complaint.
  • Information will be shared by both the parties in the form of written questions.
  • Information is also collected through depositions and recorded testimonies.
  • At trial, the jury and the judge will hear your case and all related evidence and decide.

You can claim reimbursement for the following in an auto accident lawsuit:

  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Income
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Lost ability to earn
  • Emotional distress
  • Property damage

The following are the ways in which a lawyer can help you during the claim and suit process:

  • Filing lawsuits and claims on your behalf
  • Negotiating with the defendant and insurance company
  • Recommending medical treatment centers 
  • Trial
  • Hire investigators
  • Hire experts
  • Prep you for court 
  • One of the other alternatives when filing a car accident lawsuit is to opt for a settlement. This saves everyone the time and expense of a trial. The compensation awarded in court may be higher than the compensation received with a settlement outside of court but accident suits also require more resources and very time-consuming.

How long do I have to file a car accident suit

You need to be aware of the statute of limitations in your state in order to file a lawsuit on time.

Different states have different rules related to the process of car accident lawsuits. One of that process is filing your case at a specific time period.

All 50 states have certain laws that define the time limits within which any lawsuit can be filed. Different time periods are formulated for different claims like property damage, personal injury, wrongful death, and more. 

Here are some examples of some states and their status of limitations:

  • California

A person has a period of 2 two years to take action for injury or wrongful death. And three years for the property damage.

  • Texas

A person can file the lawsuit within two years for personal injury, property damage, or death of the injured person.

  • Florida

A person has 4 years to file a lawsuit for negligence, personal injury, and property damage. A period of 2 years is allowed to take action for wrongful death.

  • New York

Within 3 years, action should be taken for personal injury and property damage.

  • Illinois

A period of 2 years is allowed to take action for personal injury and property damage. 

The car accident lawsuit process you should know before filing a case

A car accident lawsuit is a complicated and time-consuming process. The following show the typical phases of a lawsuit.

  • A Filed Complaint
    • This is the first step of the lawsuit.
    • A draft of the details of the accident is prepared as a complaint involving all the legal principles of the lawsuit.
    • The last section covers any claims, monetary compensation, or awards expected from the defendant.
    • Your lawyer will file the complaint in the appropriate court.
  • Service
    • A copy of the complaint is provided to all the defendants. This is known as service.
    • The complaint is then sent through a process server, hired by the lawyer or sent through certified mail.
    • Defendants are given time to respond to the complaint.
    • The defendant(s) sends a response.
    • The response should be formal, written, and provided within a certain specified time.
    • If the defendants do not reply, your lawyer can appeal for a default judgment and you win the lawsuit.
    • If the defendant responds within the given time, the lawsuit proceeds.
  • Discovery
    • This is the fact-finding and evidence gathering phase of the lawsuit.
    • Most of the time in a lawsuit is spent in this phase.
    • All the parties put forth written questions and also ask for evidence.
    • Depositions, that is formal interviews, take place in which all parties can question each other as well as any witnesses.
    • Depositions are performed before the court reporter.
    • Testimony is taken to ensure non-repudiation.
    • Testimony can be used as an alternative if the witness is unable to travel to the court to testify.
  • Motions
    • The lawyers make written arguments to the court. These are called motions.
    • After the discovery process, motions for the reason of summary judgment are filed before the judge.
    • Other motions include preventing the testimony of a witness or preventing evidence from being introduced, etc.
  • Negotiations & settlement
    • Any of the parties can initiate a request for settlement.
    • The majority of car accident lawsuit cases end with a settlement.
  • Pre-trial hearings
    • The court sets a schedule for the next steps of the case if a settlement is not reached.
    • The schedule includes conferences and periodic hearings.
    • The attorney has to update the status of the case to the judge.
    • The attorney discusses the legal issues with the judge if needed.
    • Usually, you do not have to attend the pre-trial hearings; Your lawyer should attend on your behalf.
  • Trial
    • Everyone should be present in the court and put forth all evidence and arguments, most often in the presence of a jury.
    • At times, only a judge carries the proceeding.
    • Phases of a trial include:
      • Jury selection- Both lawyers reduce the jury duty (potential jurors) to a certain number. They also select alternates or backup jurors.
      • Opening Statements- The lawyers summarize the case to the jury in their own words and give an overview of the rest of the proceedings.
      • Plaintiff’s Case- The plaintiff’s (victim’s) lawyer presents testimonies and pieces of evidence in their favor.
      • Defendant’s Case- The defendant’s lawyer presents evidence and witnesses in their favor.
      • Closing Arguments- Both lawyers summarize their side’s testimony and evidence and argue about why a jury should decide in their client’s favor.
      • Jury Instructions- The judge gives instructions about any particular considerations of the evidence to the jurors and asks them to provide a verdict.
      • Deliberation- The jury discusses the evidence and witnesses and then reaches a conclusion.
      • Verdict- The jury announces their decision in favor of either party. If their decision is in the plaintiff’s favor, they are awarded an amount which the defendant must pay.
  • Appeal
    • If you are not satisfied with the verdict, you can appeal in a higher court.
    • For a higher appeal, some legal points are to be considered, for example, if you feel the judge made an incorrect ruling.

How much can someone sue for a car accident

How much someone can sue for a car accident is a tricky question as there so many factors that determine that. You can really sue for most things, the question is whether or not you can convince the court and jury to award you a settlement for it.

Below are some of the things you can claim in a lawsuit that can get you compensated for if you and your attorney can prove them. The more your accident lawyer can prove and make a great argument for more of the below the chance of the settlement amount you will get increases.

Property damage

Below is a list of different claims that can be made with property damage.

  • Vehicle damage
  • Personal property damage which includes all the personal property that was present in the car during the accident
  • Reimbursement for a car rental while your car is being repaired
  • Extra expenses which will be incurred by not having the ability to drive

Medical expenses

A car accident might result in minor injuries like bruises or cuts, or serious injuries like permanent disability or paralysis.  Internal damage cannot be identified without a complete examination. Below is a list of some of the medical expenses one can claim.

  • Ambulance fees
  • Heat pads, crutches, or other accessories
  • Permanent disability
  • Consultations
  • In-home services
  • Physical therapies
  • Pain and suffering

Physical or mental distress-related damages come under the umbrella of pain and suffering. Pain and suffering are defined by how serious the pain is, what type of injuries there are and the potentiality of future pain. It also includes emotional and mental damage, anxiety, and more. Some states allow the inclusion of pain and suffering into the claim while other states do not.

Lost wages

The earning capacity of the injured is lost. This includes mobility problems, therapy sessions, hospital visiting time, and other causes that may interrupt the injured person’s capacity to go to work. The jury, in this case, considers various factors like occupation, experience, age, skill, and life expectancy.

Loss of companionship or affection

The injured person is not able to show affection and may have issues performing sexual activities for example. In the law dictionary, this is termed as “Loss of Consortium”. Both the injured and their partner can claim loss of companionship or affection.

Typical settlement amounts: Serious and minor car accident lawsuit settlement amounts

Two important factors play a major role in deciding the settlement amount. First, the amount the insurance company is ready to pay and second, the degree of injury. If the car accident is minor and none of the parties want to go through the car accident lawsuit process, then the settlement amount will typically be small.

 In such cases, you can make a psychological stress claim to try to increase your settlement amount.

 On the other hand, when the accident is major with serious injuries and damages, the typical settlement amount will be large, and it covers reimbursement for more claims.

There is no maximum or minimum amount of a settlement in a lawsuit for car accidents. There is no typical serious or minor car accident settlement amount. The settlement amount depends on factors like the nature and extent of the injury, whose fault it is, the willingness of the parties involved to go to court, and more.

There might also be involved in an auto accident case that includes only minor damages to the vehicle. This results in less medication and fewer doctor visits. In this case, a claim with your insurance company or the other party is sufficient compensation. It covers your medical expenses as well as car repair costs.

How car accident lawsuit going to trial or not going to trial affect your settlement amount/case 

Approximately, 4-5 percent of personal injury cases go to trial. The rest are settled in the early stages. You should have a clear understanding of how your settlement total will be affected by whether your lawsuit is going to trial or not.

Every coin has two sides. Most times, going to trial increases the settlement amount. Sometimes the original settlement amount offered decreases if it seems that there isn’t enough evidence to win a court case.

In a nutshell, the alternative to an accident lawsuit is choosing a settlement, which depends on who caused the accident and how strong the case is. Your attorney will advise you on the strength of your case. 

Some of the important points related to settlements are listed below:

  • The insurance company’s focus is to pay the least amount to the plaintiff and close the claim quickly.
  • If the case goes to trial, the insurance company might increase the settlement amount to entice resolving the matter quickly and out of court.
  • It is often a better idea to not accept the first settlement amount.
  • Trials are unforeseeable. No matter how strong a plaintiff’s case is, the case may end in the defendant’s favor. This gradually reduces the settlement amount and eventually, if the defendant wins, the plaintiff may lose the settlement amount as well.
  • Often, the best solution is to agree on a proper settlement amount and resolve the case. By doing so, the defendant is saved from the possibility of the verdict not going in his or her favor.  Also, the plaintiff can be saved from receiving small settlement award despite a lot of effort.

Why you need to hire the right personal injury or car accident lawyer to help you win your case

Struggling with the other party’s lawyer as well as the insurance company is time-consuming and frustrating. An experienced lawyer knows all the tactics and strategies needed to best handle other lawyers and insurance companies.

 They have full knowledge of what will work and what won’t.

They know how to tackle a car accident lawsuit process if your case heads to a court trial.

Remember that these injury law firms and lawyers will be paid a certain recovery amount of the reward or settlement. They carry out all the proceedings, communications, and the paperwork on behalf of their client.

This is the reason why it is important to hire the right personal injury or car accident lawyer to help win the case.

Get help by speaking to an injury professional

The auto accident claim covers different types of accidents and situations.

The different situations an injury typically determines the type of claim to go after.

And you need an expert who has done it before to help you file a claim and if you go the suit route an attorney understands the process. 

Do not understand estimate the car accident lawsuit process. It is not a good idea to try to do this alone with the help of a personal injury attorney. 

Contact us to be connected with a lawyer if you have an injury or auto-related accident.

Further reading:

  1. Personal injury lawyer fees:
  2. Should I get an attorney after a car accident:
  3. Car accident lawyer cost:
  4. Car accident what to do:
  5. An average settlement for car accident neck and back injuries:
  6. The contingency fee arrangement:

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