After an automobile crash, all you probably want is a fair auto accident settlement to help pay for you medical bills, damage to your vehicle and other damages and get on with your life. But, what if the other driver denies paying you anything? Well, it might be the time to file a car accident lawsuit in the court.
But what does a car accident lawsuit look like? What steps are involved in filing a lawsuit to get the adequate compensation you deserve? Here is a step-by-step guide about how to process this legal action.
Considering a Car Accident Lawsuit
A lawsuit is a legal action that occurs in the court when the plaintiff (person filing the lawsuit) attempts to recover the loss from the defendant (the one who is being sued) or the defendant’s insurance company. If you must initiate a car accident lawsuit, here is how to carry it out.
File the Complaint
The first step in a car accident lawsuit is to file a draft or complaint (also called a “petition”) with the court in the area where the accident occurred, which may not be the same as where you reside if you were out of town at the time of the accident. The complaint is a legal document that describes what happened in the accident, the types of damages you suffered as a result, and why you believe the other driver was negligent. It also contains the amount of financial compensation you are seeking.
Remember to file your complaint within the time period as per the law, so that is not barred by a Statute of Limitations. Besides this, it is often advisable to hire an experienced car accident lawsuit attorney who will represent your lawsuit in the court.
Inform the Defendants of the Lawsuit
After filing the complaint, you need to serve a copy to the defendant so that he or she can respond to it. There are specific rules about who can serve the complaint, when, and how. It generally includes sending the complaint via certified mail or hiring a server to deliver it personally. Check with an attorney or the court clerk where you are filing your lawsuit for the rules on service to the other party.
Though the jurisdiction rules vary, usually, it has to be served within 30 days after filing of your complaint. If the defendant is tough to track down and serve with the lawsuit, the court can also extend the deadline.
The Defendant Answers the Complaint
After being served with your complaint, the defendant gets three to four weeks to answer the allegations or raise any defenses against your claim. He or she may admit or deny the description listed in the complaint and hire a lawyer for pleading in the court on his behalf.
Discovery Process to Uncover Evidence
This can be a lengthy stage in the car accident lawsuit process, as both parties exchange relevant information about the case. It allows both sides to gather all the facts and determine how they want to proceed. It includes interrogatories (written questions to be answered under oath), requests to produce deposition or documents.
Attorneys Conduct Settlement Negotiations
Your attorney likely will try to reach a car accident settlement with the other driver or their insurance company. Car accident settlements are common, in fact, and only a small percentage of these cases ever go to trial in a court. Instead, the parties negotiate a settlement amount that is in the best interests of both to settle the case without the need for a costly, lengthy and time-consuming court trial.
Take Your Case to Trial
If the other driver or their insurance company doesn’t agree to a car accident settlement, it’s time to take your case to the jury trial, which generally includes:
Witness testimony and evidence presented by both sides
Closing arguments by the attorneys of both sides