6 Stages of a Car Accident Lawsuit

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident and there were injuries or damages sustained, you might be considering a lawsuit against the other party. Before you sue, you will need to know what the insurance company for the other driver will offer you.

If the limits on the insurance won’t adequately compensate you for your injuries and damages, you will need to see from your own insurance agent if you have anything to cover the shortfalls. Even if you do, you can potentially sue if your insurance will to cover your losses. Further to that, insurance companies will rarely cover non-economic losses like emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of spousal companionship.

Read on to learn about the stages of a car accident lawsuit.

1. Filing

Any civil lawsuit starts with the filing of a petition, or complaint, with the local court. Check with a local car accident lawyer about the statute of limitations. This is the time limit within which you or your lawyer must file the paperwork. The complaint you file will set out all of the allegations you, as the plaintiff, plan to make against the other driver, who is the defendant.

The defendant and his insurance company has a certain amount of time to respond. This response may include counterclaims and cross-claims. You will have a set amount of time to respond to any counterclaims.

2. Preliminary Motions

The defendant may make a number of different motions. These may include a motion for removal, a motion for a change of judge, a motion for change of venue, and a motion to dismiss.  In all cases but a motion to dismiss, the case will continue even if the motion is granted. Motions are public and will be ruled upon without a hearing.

3. Pre-Trial

If your case makes it past the motion to dismiss, the judge will set a date for trial. This could be a year or more away. The judge might also order you to attend mediation. This is a practice where the defendant and his lawyers and you and your car accident lawyer will meet and talk with a neutral mediator present. The mediator will try to help all parties come to an agreement without going to trial.

4. Discovery

If the mediation meetings are unsuccessful, your case then moves on to the phase of discovery. This is when lawyers from all parties investigate the facts. This could involve examining documents and interviewing witnesses. Both sides have to share what they learn with the other party.

Your car accident lawyer might interview witnesses, the other driver, and anyone else who might be pertinent to the case. This is done through a deposition. All lawyers are present at the deposition and may ask questions, which are answered under oath, and recorded by a court reporter or stenographer who transcribes everything that is said during discovery.

5. Post-Discovery Resolutions

If your lawyer thinks the evidence gathered during discovery supports your request for compensation, he or she can bring a motion for summary judgment. This motion will allow the judge to decide on the case without going to trial and seeing live witnesses. The motion for summary judgment will include evidence produced during the discovery; the judge might grant the motion at this point. If not, the case will go to trial.

6. Trial

A bench trial means just a judge hears your case. If it’s a jury trial, the judge will decide which laws are applicable but the jury decides what happened and if those facts meet the requirements. Very few car accident injury cases go all the way to trial. At any point the other lawyer might offer a settlement; if you accept the court will be notified that the case has been resolved.

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