Most car accident claims are resolved before a lawsuit is filed. Either the plaintiff will settle with the insurance carrier on their own, or the plaintiff will hire a lawyer and the lawyer will settle with the insurance carrier. And if you look at all the car accident lawsuits that do get filed, a majority of them will get settled before trial.
However, it is important to keep in mind that not all car accident cases are settled out of court. There are many reasons for this. The most common reason is that the parties cannot agree on who is liable for the accident. Party A says Party B is liable, and Party B says Party A is liable. Another reason could be disagreements over amount of compensation. The plaintiff might want a certain amount that the defendant will not pay because he or she believes the amount is unfair.
If you have been involved in any kind of accident and have not been able to settle out of court, you will have to file a lawsuit and go through trial to get the compensation that you deserve. You will very likely have to hire a lawyer to help you. If you are not familiar enough with the legal system, then your case will get crushed by the opposing party's legal team, and you will end up with nothing. That's why it is a very good idea to retain an injury lawyer whenever you are involved in any accident. At this point, you may have some questions regarding what happens at trial. Although the rules of trial vary from state to state, we will review the ones that are common to most states.
In most states, it is a jury (and not a judge) that makes most decisions in a car accident case. There are usually twelve people in a jury, although that number is sometimes lower depending on the circumstances. The first stage is the stage in which jury members are selected. Potential jurors will be asked a series of questions to find out if there hold any biases that could prevent them from being impartial. Of course, you want a jury that is fair, because you want your trial to be fair and the decisions to be fair. If you have doubts regarding the fairness of the jury, you will need to speak with your car accident lawyer. If the lawyer finds that the jury is biased for some reason, they can raise this issue with the judge.
After the jury has been selected by the judge, each side makes its opening statement. Your attorney will give an introduction regarding why everybody is there, and what your story is about, and what key decisions they are expected to make. The opposing counsel will also make an opening statement, and this will be about their defense. They will talk about why their client is not responsible for your damages. Next, your attorney will present your case, supporting his views by all the evidence that is available to him. The evidence could be video recordings, photographs, witness testimonials, pay slips, and medical bills. A medical doctor could also testify about the severity of your injuries. You can also present medical bills and other medical documentation, since hiring an expert witness can get expensive. If your attorney chooses to call you to testify, he should (and will) prepare you before trial, so don't worry. It's completely normal to be anxious about testifying, especially when you have so much at stake.
Then, the defendant's attorney will follow a similar procedure to present his side of the story. This will be a defense, much like the kinds of defense you see on television. The defendant's attorney will call witnesses to make testimonies that will show that their client is not liable for your damages. They may also bring photographs, video recordings, or expert witnesses to defend themselves against your claim.
After all the evidence has been presented, the attorney from each side will give a closing argument. This is your last opportunity to talk to the jury and convince them that the defendant is liable for your damages. Your attorney will summarize all the facts that were presented. He will state that you have been wronged, and you need to be made whole again by being awarded for your injuries.
After the closing arguments, the jury will move to a deliberations room where they will deliberate. This means they will look at all the evidence, and using the instructions they were given, they will draw conclusions as to whether the defendant should pay for your damages. There is no time limit set by the courts regarding how long juries can deliberate. Sometimes deliberations take hours, and sometimes they take days. When the jury has reached a verdict, they will inform the judge, and the verdict will be read aloud for everyone to hear. The legal procedure described here is not exclusive to car accidents. If you have been involved in a bus accident and hire a bus accident attorney, then the procedure will be very similar. One important difference that we notice between these two cases is that in bus accidents, the injuries tend to be more severe. Bus companies are usually owned by the city, so you would sue the city, and not a private individual.
Let's say you won your case at trial. If you won, that means you are legally entitled to collect from the defendant, or their insurance carrier. But that was the easy part. The hardest part is collecting. Many people believe that once the losing party hears the judgment, they will write a check and the case is over, and everybody goes home happy. Furthermore, some people even believe the court will write them a check. In reality, neither scenario actually happens. Unfortunately, it is now your job to go after the defendant for payment. However, the degree of difficulty in collecting does vary greatly, from very easy, to impossible.
If the defendant had a high coverage, then you will most likely be dealing with their insurance carrier. In such cases, it is relatively painless to collect. Hopefully, the opposing party will not file an appeal, and their insurance carrier will pay within 20 to 60 days after the judgment. The ideal situation is having an unlimited insurance policy. In that case, you can get as much as your damages. Unfortunately, the typical driver's policy is around $15,000 and so that's the maximum their insurance provider is obligated to pay you. We can contrast this with slip and fall cases. In a slip and fall case, you would sue the premises where you fell. For example, let's say you fell at a major chain grocery store. Most famous grocery stores carry very high policies, usually near a million dollars. Compare that to the $15000 policies that car drivers carry, and you will understand why a personal injury lawyer is much more willing to take a slip and fall case over a car accident case.
There are also instances in which you will be disappointed to find that the person you were suing has no insurance. In such cases, you will have to collect from them personally. You will have to either seize the available funds in their bank account, or garnish their wages, or put a lien against their property, if they own property. If you don't have the time or the patience to collect on your own, you can hire a professional to collect for you. The field of collections is complicated, and beyond the scope of our discussion. But before you attempt collections, be aware that the defendant can file bankruptcy at any time, and that will eliminate their debt towards you. Therefore, you want to start collecting as soon as you possibly can.
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