Personal injury claims that involve car accidents rarely go to court—most settle out of court at some point. This usually happens because car accident litigation – particularly car accident trials – costs insurance companies so much money.
If a car accident case goes to trial, both the accident victim and the insurance company must typically retain medical experts to testify at out-of-court depositions and in court. The significant fees associated with this testimony can increase the litigation expenses for everyone involved.
One of the most critical steps you should take following a car crash is to retain skilled car accident attorney to handle your case from the onset. Your attorney can file a claim with the appropriate insurance company on your behalf and, if necessary, litigate your case to a resolution in court.
If you decide to litigate your case in court, your attorney will represent you in all legal proceedings. Every step of the way, your attorney will advocate for your legal interests and aggressively fight for your right to recover the monetary compensation you deserve.
Settling a Car Accident Claim Out of Court
The vast majority of personal injury claims arising from car accidents settle at some point out of court. In fact, if every car accident case had to go to trial for a resolution, it would place an undue burden on local judges – and on the court system as a whole. Consequently, most injured parties and insurance companies work hard to try and reach an amicable resolution in a car accident claim.
The settlement process begins when a car accident victim's attorney submits a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company.
To evaluate this claim, the accident victim's attorney will typically submit copies of police reports, witness statements, medical records, medical bills, injury photographs, and property damage photographs. The insurance company adjuster will then review these documents and may make an offer to resolve the claim through settlement.
In many situations, first-time settlement offers are not reasonable offers, as they do not fully compensate accident victims for the full extent of their losses. Therefore, your attorney may need to negotiate with the insurance company several times before the adjuster increases their offer significantly. If that does not happen, your lawyer can initiate litigation and file a lawsuit to recover damages for you.
At every stage of the legal proceedings, your attorney can address all of your legal concerns and help you make intelligent and informed decisions about the process.
Pursuing Litigation and Taking a Case to Trial or Binding Arbitration
The litigation stage of a personal injury case begins when the accident victim's attorney files a lawsuit in court and serves a copy of the lawsuit on the at-fault driver. That driver's insurance company will then retain legal counsel to represent the other driver, and the litigation may proceed forward.
First, the parties typically engage in a process known as discovery. During this time, the parties exchange relevant documents in the case and answer questions, called Interrogatories, about the accident.
The defense attorney may also take the accident victim's discovery deposition.
This deposition consists of verbal questions about the accident, how it occurred, the accident victim's injuries, the medical treatment that the accident victim underwent, and the overall consequences of the accident.
Once discovery is complete, the defense attorney will typically go back to their adjuster and make recommendations about the case. In some situations, the insurance company may increase its settlement offer after the deposition occurs.
At other times, however, the insurance company may not raise their offer. In this latter instance, the accident victim has the option of taking their case to a civil jury trial or pursuing alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
If the case goes to a jury trial, a jury listens to all of the evidence that both parties present, evaluates the evidence, and makes a decision on the amount of monetary compensation to award the accident victim.
However, if both parties agree, they can pursue one or more types of ADR. For example, during a mediation, a neutral, third-party mediator works to facilitate settlement discussions between the parties.
During binding arbitration, the parties pre-select a neutral arbitrator who listens to the evidence of the case, evaluates it, and renders a monetary damage award to the injured accident victim.
Your car accident attorney can represent you during all of these proceedings and can aggressively advocate for your legal rights and interests.
Car Accident Injuries
The injuries that car crash victims suffer are often debilitating and may require significant medical treatment for several weeks or months. In some cases, car accident injuries are permanent, meaning they are unlikely to improve, even with time. In fact, many permanent injuries cause accident victims to experience suffering, pain, and inconvenience for the rest of their life.
The injuries that a car crash victim sustains typically depend upon a variety of factors, including the specific circumstances of the car accident, how the injured driver or passenger's body moves around inside their vehicle during the crash, the speeds of the involved vehicles, and the number of separate collisions that occur.
In some cases, a car accident causes the accident victim's body to strike something inside their vehicle, like the dashboard, headrest, steering wheel, window, or doorframe, causing a severe injury. For example, if the driver hits their head on the window or headrest during the accident, they may sustain a traumatic head or brain injury, such as a concussion.
Other common injuries that crash victims may suffer can include soft tissue neck and back injuries, rib fractures, broken bones, internal bleeding, internal organ damage, spinal cord damage, full or partial paralysis, open lacerations, bruises, and death.
If you sustained any of these injuries in your auto accident, your medical provider may provide you with a treatment regimen that you should follow. For example, you may need to undergo a medical procedure, such as surgery, or consult with your primary care doctor. You might also need to visit with a medical specialist, such as a neurologist or orthopedic doctor, for an extended time.
You must follow through with this prescribed treatment regimen so that you can recover from your injuries fully. In addition, following through with your medical treatment helps to show insurance company adjusters that your injuries are severe and that they warrant appropriate monetary compensation.
During this time, while you focus on seeking medical treatment, your lawyer can begin handling your case and preparing a personal injury claim on your behalf. For example, they can gather documents, including medical treatment records and bills, to prepare a settlement demand package in your case. While your lawyer handles the legal aspects of your claim, you can focus on attending the necessary medical appointments to recover from your injuries.
What to Prove in a Car Accident Case
In any car accident claim or lawsuit, the accident victim has the sole legal burden of proof, which they must satisfy to recover monetary damages.
First, an accident victim must establish the duty-of-care element. In other words, they must show that the other driver owed them a legal duty. This element is straightforward to satisfy since all drivers have a responsibility to drive carefully and safely at all times. Likewise, they have a duty to follow all traffic laws and regulations while they are on the road.
Next, an accident victim must legally establish that the other driver violated their duty of care in some way. For example, the other driver may have broken a traffic law, engaged in distracted driving, or drove their vehicle while intoxicated. Furthermore, the accident victim must show that as a direct result of the other driver's negligent actions or inactions, the accident occurred and led to the accident victim's physical injuries.
Proving these legal elements of a car accident claim or lawsuit is oftentimes an uphill battle, and insurance companies do not make the process easy for accident victims.
Therefore, a car accident attorney can be an invaluable help throughout your pending case.
First, your lawyer can retain several experts to testify on your behalf. If the insurance company is disputing fault for the accident, your lawyer can retain an accident reconstructionist to testify on your behalf. Accident reconstructionists can visit the accident scene, talk to car crash witnesses, and put together exactly how the accident occurred.
In addition, your attorney can retain a medical expert to testify in your case. Medical experts can help to establish that a particular injury is permanent in nature and that it is unlikely to get better with time. Similarly, a medical expert can testify that your injury or injuries directly resulted from the car crash.
Recovering Monetary Compensation in Car Accident Cases
Regardless of whether a car accident claim settles or goes to court, the accident victim may be entitled to recover various monetary damages. The total damage award that an accident victim recovers, either through settlement or litigation, usually depends on the accident, the injuries that the accident victim suffered in the crash, the extent of the accident victim's medical treatment, and the total cost of that medical treatment.
Generally, the more severe a car crash and the more severe the injuries an accident victim suffers, the higher the monetary award they may recover in their case.
Injured auto accident victims may recover monetary damages for:
- Past and anticipated medical costs
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of earnings
- Loss of the ability to use a body part
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Loss of spousal companionship
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Mental distress
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Lifetime care costs
Your car accident attorney will do everything possible to recover the highest amount of monetary recovery, either through settlement or litigation.
Call an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Right Away
If you recently sustained injuries in a car crash, time may be of the essence. This is because accident victims have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit seeking monetary recovery. If the accident victim misses this deadline, they effectively waive their right to file a future claim or recover any monetary damages for their injuries.
A skilled personal injury lawyer in Atlanta can explore all of your legal options with you and help you chart a successful course of action for your case. Your lawyer can also represent you in all legal proceedings and obtain the best possible result.