If you have been involved in a car accident, you might know that you could get legal help, but you are concerned about how the process works and whether it will be worth your time.
Personal injury lawsuits can be very time-consuming and fact-intensive. However, your car accident attorney will often do most of the legwork for you in these types of cases. Your main role is to provide information and ensure that you are getting the medical help you need to recover after a crash.
Every lawsuit is different, but most will follow a similar process that we have outlined for you below.
The Demand Stage
In most cases, your lawsuit will start long before you actually file with the court to make a complaint against another driver formally. In the demand stage, you will work with your attorney to gather information about the accident and the damages you have experienced because of the accident.
Once you and your attorney have gathered all of this information, your attorney will present it to the insurance company or other at-fault person with a settlement demand. The demand is a starting point for settlement negotiations. It represents the amount of money you would take to avoid filing a lawsuit and that you feel it would fully compensate you for all of your losses after a car accident.
The insurance company will sometimes negotiate with your attorney to settle the case before filing a lawsuit. However, if you cannot reach a reasonable settlement agreement, your lawyer will draft a petition or a complaint to file with the court.
Petition and Answer
Your petition sets out the general facts of your situation and explains why you are legally entitled to compensation.
The other party will file an “Answer” in response to your petition. The answer responds directly to your factual allegations.
The Discovery Phase
After the insurance company or other party files an answer, formal discovery will begin. Discovery is the longest portion of a lawsuit. It is a process by which you and your attorney will continue to gather information in support of your case. It will often involve the following:
- Answering written interrogatories
- Gathering documents, including police reports and medical records if you do not have them already
- Interviewing witnesses
The insurance company will also request similar information from you as well.
Once discovery has concluded, you will have a trial where you can present your case to a judge or jury.
At any point during this process, you can settle your case. In fact, most personal injury cases settle before they go to trial. However, to get the best result, any case in litigation should be prepared to go to a jury trial.