If you’ve recently experienced a car accident, you may be left with property damage, injuries, and psychological trauma related to the collision. These effects can have devastating impacts on your daily life: You may not be able to operate vehicles in the same capacity anymore, your ability to work may have been compromised, or you may experience lasting physical and mental damages.
However those effects manifest, you are entitled to compensation. Filing a lawsuit is the most effective way to ensure you receive that financial assistance for a smooth recovery.
How to File a Car Accident Lawsuit
There are seven steps involved in the process of filing a lawsuit concerning an auto accident. These steps can be divided into two categories: the pre-litigation phase and the trial phase.
Phase 1. Pre-Litigation
During this phase, your lawyer will build your case. This means they need to gather all evidence related to the incident, including when and how it happened, any resulting property damages, injuries, and everything in between.
- Investigation: At this stage, your lawyer will gather all the necessary evidence to lay the groundwork for your case. They will collect everything including police reports, photos and videos of the collision, and medical documentation. If applicable, they will also interview witnesses that were present during the accident.
- Negotiation: Next, your lawyer will negotiate a settlement with your insurance company. This step is tricky and depends heavily on the evidence your lawyer was able to gather during the investigation phase since your insurer is likely to attempt to avoid a payout or pay as little as possible.
Your insurance company has the incentive to accept the settlement offered by your lawyer, as this tends to be much cheaper than having to take the case to court. Still, they are not guaranteed to agree to a fair settlement, and things may have to be resolved with the help of the court system. This may cause delays up to several months, and in extreme circumstances, over a year.
Phase 2. Trial
Once you have initiated a lawsuit, the court requires that there be an attempt for mediation, another effort to keep the case out of the courthouse. If mediation fails, the involved parties may choose arbitration instead – this is similar to a trial, however, it is less formal and a much quicker process. The arbitrator can either make a binding or non-binding decision as to what the compensation award is, and the following trial will either enforce or appeal this decision.
- Trial: It is uncommon to reach this point, but if your case does not settle or you must appeal the decision made during arbitration, your lawyer can question and cross-examine witnesses (including medical professionals and all other relevant experts) during a trial. You may also be expected to testify. There may only be one trial, or you may need to appeal the original verdict and initiate a new trial altogether.
- Collection: This is the conclusion of your lawsuit process – when everything is resolved. This can come either after negotiation, after arbitration, or following a formal trial and/or appeal. Those cases solved in court must be paid in 20-30 days (the defendant may be required to pay interest if they pay late).
Filing a lawsuit for a car accident is a tough process. Don’t go it alone – get yourself expert legal assistance to get the compensation you need for a speedy recovery.