Car accidents can be traumatic. Victims often lose thousands of dollars in the value of their car and are scarred by injuries for the rest of their lives. Those who suffer through car accidents may be shaken and confused. They may want to focus solely on recovery and not have to worry about the myriad of legal options available to them. But one of the keys to obtaining compensation after a car accident is to act quickly and responsibly.
Here’s what to expect when filing a car accident injuries lawsuit.
Filing a Lawsuit
Filing the lawsuit is the first step, and victims need to act quickly. That statute of limitations, or time limit, on filing a lawsuit will vary from state to state. If a victim delays the filing and the statute of limitations expires, he or she cannot file a lawsuit under any circumstances.
The filing documentation should include the plaintiff, the charges, the defendant who is being sued, and the legal theory that underpins the lawsuit.
“If you’re injured in a car accident, the insurance company and the jury are going to assume that if you were injured, you would have seen a doctor,” says attorney Kathleen Sigurdson. “Medical records are very important to substantiate that you were injured in a car crash.”
Next, there are a series of preliminary motions. These motions often involve changes to the case, like a change of venue or judge. The motions may occur due to either the defendant or the plaintiff being fearful that they will not receive a fair trial in certain places.
Many changes at this stage may help a person's case. The one that would not help, however, is a motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss suggests that a case is frivolous or unwarranted. If a judge allows a motion to dismiss, a person's lawsuit will end and he or she will receive no damages. The plaintiff must have a legally sound, well-crafted suit in order to keep their case beyond this stage.
After the preliminary motions, there is the pre-trial phase. Attorneys from both sides often meet and attempt to work out a legal settlement. They may undergo mediation by order of the judge. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the case will proceed to discovery, where both sides collect evidence and take depositions of the individuals involved in the case. Each side requests documents from everyone involved in the case.
Discovery can expose personal information and force a person to answer uncomfortable questions under oath.
Attorneys will negotiate for the terms of discovery at this stage. They can also push for a motion of summary judgment. This declaration from a judge involves the judge making a ruling before going through the full process of a trial. The discovery stage is so important that many cases end during this time.
Finally, there is the trial itself. It is the culmination of months or even years of hard work from attorneys and plaintiffs.
It’s important to remember that every stage of a lawsuit is a stage where a suit can be won or lost. Car accident victims need to be familiar with these stages, and the steps they need to take in order to keep their case viable and eventually receive the damages they deserve.