Did you know there were over five million car collisions in 2020? Although automobiles are the most common form of transportation for Americans, they can also be dangerous if you aren’t careful.
Car accidents can cause serious injuries, and can even be fatal. If you have suffered from an auto accident personal injury, then you should consider a car accident case. Want to know what to do if you get into a car accident and need to take legal action? Here is a guide to filing an auto accident lawsuit.
Pay Attention to Injuries
Even though you may be in shock, it is important to evaluate your injuries at the scene of the crash. Usually, there will be paramedics in close proximity if it is a large enough crash for police attention. Sometimes injuries can surface many hours or even days after the car crash, once the shock wears off. When you go into shock, your body might suppress symptoms such as internal bleeding.
You should also make sure that you visit a doctor for a thorough examination. If you have pain or other symptoms that you cannot identify, they may suggest scans and other tests. Ask for copies of all medical records associated with the car accident. Having these files on hand will help you if you decide to go through with an auto accident lawsuit in the future. You will also need them if you want to file for disability later on.
Keep getting treatment for your injuries if you consistently have symptoms. Steady treatment is important for insurance records later on, especially if you want coverage for your medical costs from the other party.
Gather All Documentation
Take as much photographic and video evidence at the crash site as you can. If you are able to, try to get pictures of the damage done to your car. You need to act fast, especially if the accident happened in a busy area or in the middle of a road. The police and cleanup crew will try to start clearing the street for other traffic, so be as efficient as possible.
Do a quick look around the area to see if there are any traffic cameras or businesses that may have security footage. Any video captured of the crash itself can be very helpful to determine who is at fault for the collision. It is better to have more documentation than less. Even if you think you do not need it, take as many pictures as you can. This evidence will help you immensely later on if you pursue an auto accident lawsuit.
Keep all evidence in a secure location and back it up as well. Storing it in the cloud, on a separate USB or hard drive, or even printing photos are all great ways to ensure your evidence is secure. Try to use more than one method as a failsafe. If you want to take it a step further, organize the documentation. You can separate it into folders, files, or group it together. This can save you money on attorney fees and make it easier for legal counsel to look through it.
Contact Your Insurance Company
When you are in a car accident, you should first exchange insurance information with the other driver. If the other driver is at fault, you may be able to file a claim with his or her insurance company. Getting in touch with your insurance company is still important, even if you aren’t responsible for the crash. For instance, you can get additional assistance from your own insurance if you have collision coverage as part of your policy.
Insurance will help you to get a rental car if your vehicle is totaled or needs major repairs. They will also give you an estimate for reimbursement, based on the damage to your car. It may take several days for the insurance company to process your claim, so be patient. Send in all of the documentation you have to strengthen your case. If you drive an uber you might need to think, is uber injury protection worth it?
Find a Good Attorney
Once you decide to go through with a personal injury case, you need to recruit legal counsel to help you. Many attorneys specialize in personal injury claims, especially if you live in a big city or metropolitan area. Ask family and friends if they have any recommendations for attorneys that have helped them in the past. You may even be able to get a discount or special offer for the referral.
The internet is also a great resource for finding reputable legal help. Review sites such as Yelp and Google Reviews contain honest feedback from past clients. You can sort attorneys based on rating, who is in your area, and how much they charge for their services. Make sure to discuss legal fees with any attorney you sit down with before you go any further. Many attorneys offer a free consultation, to see if you can work with each other.
However, if you agree, you might need to pay a retainer fee or agree that they receive a certain percentage of your settlement if you win through trial or mediation.
File Your Complaint
Once you decide you want to take legal action, the first step you need to take is to file a complaint. In some states, a complaint is also known as a petition. This is a document to the court that gives the basic details of the incident, who is involved, and a description of injuries suffered.
Check with your attorney or legal counsel to see what your state’s rules are for complaints. You may need to specify how much you are seeking in damages.
See If You Can Settle
Before you take the case to trial, you will need to try and settle with the other party’s insurance company. If you have any medical conditions, wait for them to plateau before you send in a demand for settlement. If you already have an attorney, he or she will likely take care of this for you. They will also handle negotiations with the insurance company about how much money you will receive for your injuries.
Since insurance companies think that most people want to settle, they will often start with a lower amount. Rely on your legal team to try and negotiate the amount they think you deserve to cover your personal injury claim. Sometimes, negotiations go back and forth and you aren’t able to resolve the issues with the insurance company. In that case, you will have to take the case to trial.
Although your attorneys can give you advice on whether or not you should settle, it is ultimately your decision. One benefit of settling is that you can get your money quickly. If you do not care about the amount, it will be much faster than a trial.
File a Lawsuit
It is best to file your auto accident lawsuit as soon as possible. Depending on where you live, you may need to deal with a statute of limitations. This sets a time frame for how long you have after the accident to sue. You also need to serve the defendant with the complaint. This includes giving them a copy of the complaint within a specified time frame, which also contains a summons to appear in court.
Talk with your lawyer about his or her strategy for the discovery process and trial. Click this link to learn more about the type of attorney to look for when you file an auto accident lawsuit.
Go Through the Discovery Process
Once you file your lawsuit, it is time for discovery. During discovery, attorneys for both parties exchange information that has to do with the case. This information can include photographic evidence, medical records, insurance claims, and witness statements related to the car accident. You may receive requests for a deposition from opposing legal counsel.
Discovery is a vital opportunity to share as many details of the personal injury case as possible. You will need to provide details of how the auto accident caused your injury and back up your claims with evidence. Opposing counsel may ask for a third-party medical examination, conducted by a different doctor than your own. If the doctor’s observations corroborate those of your physician, it will strengthen your case.
Lawyers can ask anyone directly or indirectly involved in the auto accident to give a deposition. They will ask the witnesses a series of questions that they may be able to use as evidence in the trial.
After all of the parties involved go through discovery, the court will often present mediation as an option. Unlike a settlement, mediation has a third party, called the mediator. The mediator is neutral, so he or she will be able to help come to a resolution if possible. A mediator will walk between two rooms, one with you and your attorney, and the other with those of the opposing party.
Although the mediator does not hold any real power, he or she can still play a powerful role in encouraging a settlement. You may be able to create a better settlement agreement than what was originally offered by the insurance company.
In addition, mediation will save you the stress, money, and psychological toll of a trial. A trial can be exhausting and reliving the memories of the car accident and the injuries may be painful as well. Like settling with the insurance company, mediation is a much quicker way to get financial compensation in an auto accident settlement. Although it may not be as much as if you went to trial, there is a guarantee of payment and a quicker resolution.
Proceed to the Trial
If all else fails, you will then go to trial to try and win your personal injury claim. This is considered a last resort, and although it is the most risky, it can have a larger reward than the other options. Cases are often backed up in court, so it may take months to even years for your case to come to trial. If you need the money quickly, then a trial may not be the best option for you.
Depending on the complexity of the case, the trial may take anywhere from several days to a few weeks. It depends on how much evidence you have to present and how many witnesses both attorneys will bring to testify. As the injured person, you carry the burden in the trial of proving that the opposing party caused your injury. You need to present sufficient evidence through personal testimony, witnesses, and other records such as medical records.
A jury will also be the one to decide how much money you will be awarded for your auto accident lawsuit. They may answer a set of questions, and each question will render a separate verdict. If you win the trial, you will then have to give a portion of your earnings to your attorney if that was part of your agreement.
Learn How to File a Car Accident Case
If you are in an automobile accident, the prospect of filing and settling a lawsuit does not have to be overwhelming. With this guide, you can pursue legal action for a car accident case if necessary and get the compensation you deserve.
For more legal advice or information, take a look at the Law section on our site. You will find all of the answers to any of your legal needs.