Car accidents continue to be a growing problem globally, despite efforts to reduce them through various measures. Unfortunately, many people still lose their lives on the roads, and those who survive often suffer severe injuries that require extensive medical treatment. For many car accident victims, the cost of this medical care can be overwhelming and beyond their means.
As a result, they may have to rely on the support of friends, family, and charitable organizations not only to cover their medical bills but also for their basic needs such as food and clothing. However, victims of car accidents may be entitled to compensation for their injuries, whether they are soft-tissue injuries or more severe injuries that result in full paralysis or an inability to perform their daily activities as before. Typically, victims have a high chance of receiving compensation when the car accident was caused by someone else’s negligence.
In your pursuit of compensation for a car accident, you may need to decide between filing a car accident lawsuit or a car accident claim. These two legal options can be confusing for car accident victims, especially since both seek similar outcomes, which is compensation. However, there are significant differences between the two methods, particularly in how they are applied.
A car insurance claim involves notifying the negligent party’s insurance company of the accident and seeking compensation for the injuries sustained as provided by the insurance policy. You or your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company to reach a reasonable settlement without involving the court system.
In contrast, a car accident lawsuit refers to a formal legal action taken against the party at fault in a court of law. The injured party filing the lawsuit, known as the plaintiff, seeks the assistance of a judge or jury to recover damages in monetary terms for their injuries and losses. The plaintiff and defendant, represented by lawyers, engage in a formal process of exchanging information and holding oral depositions before arguing in front of a judge or jury.
If you plan to file a lawsuit on your own, the following is a basic and non-exhaustive guide:
The first thing you should do immediately after being involved in a car accident is to contact the police. It is recommended that you have the police take details of the accident to help them file a formal police report. This report can be used as evidence later during trial before the jury. Moreover, in some scenarios, the party at fault can become difficult, and the presence of police can help cushion you from danger. They can even make arrangements for ambulances to help the injured. Additionally, as you could be traumatized and forget the logistics of the accident, the police report will help refresh your memory.
After contacting the police, you should assess whether you have grounds for monetary compensation. If you are unable to evaluate your options by yourself, getting in touch with an experienced car accident lawyer can be helpful. A lawyer will help you file a complaint (petition) in a court of law. The petition explains what happened during the accident, the damages incurred, and the legal basis through which you are filing a lawsuit. This marks the beginning of the actual lawsuit.
Before proceeding with the lawsuit, you must formally notify the party at fault of the legal proceedings against them. This is done by serving them with a copy of the petition you filed in court. This allows them to be aware of the charges against them and make necessary arrangements to defend themselves, such as hiring a lawyer from their insurance company. Depending on your jurisdiction, there is a set amount of time in which you must serve them. If the defendant is difficult to get in touch with, the deadline may be extended.
After being served with the petition, the defendant must respond with an answer, which is essentially an acknowledgment that they have received the petition. In the answer, they will admit or deny the allegations made against them. This response will give you an opportunity to further build your legal strategy against their defense.
Discovery is a critical phase of the litigation process. During this phase, the plaintiff and defendant exchange relevant information such as photos, property damage estimates, and written answers to questions. The discovery process allows both parties to gather evidence and facts that support their case, and it can help identify weaknesses in the other side’s argument. Written questions will be asked and answered, documents exchanged, and oral statements given under oath, also known as depositions.
Once the discovery process is complete, the final phase of a civil litigation case is a trial. This is where the legal teams present their cases and the evidence to a jury. Witnesses will be cross-examined, and opening and closing statements will be made by both sides to give the judge or jury an overview of the lawsuit. After carefully evaluating the arguments and evidence presented, the jury will deliberate and make a final verdict that will either favor the defendant or the plaintiff. If the ruling is in the plaintiff’s favor, the defendant will be required to pay the amount of damages decided by the jury.
Navigating the legal process after a car accident can be overwhelming, especially when you are focused on your physical and emotional recovery. It’s essential to have a knowledgeable car accident lawyer who will guide you through the legal system and explain each step of the process. At Lone Star Injury Attorneys, our legal team is committed to representing you fully and ensuring that you understand all of your options. We offer a free consultation, so contact us today to learn more about how we can help you seek justice.