A car accident personal injury lawsuit involves several stages and procedures to get you from the accident to compensation. They can take a few months to a few years to settle with the help of an experienced car accident personal injury lawyer.
Below are the three major phases of a car accident lawsuit so you know what is going to happen going forward with your case.
#1 Pre-Litigation Stage
In most cases, your attorney will not file a lawsuit right away. You and your car accident personal injury lawyer will investigate the accident and gather documents and facts to support your case. This can be called the pre-litigation or pre-suit phase. It involves these steps:
- Initial case evaluation: This is your initial consultation with your lawyer. You will review the case details and determine if you have a strong case.
- Documentation and calculation of damages: Your attorney will get access to your medical records so they can understand all of the injuries you suffered in the accident. Your attorney also will want to see copies of all your medical bills related to the accident. Once all of this information has been complied. Your attorney will estimate your total damages.
- Crash and negligence investigation: Your personal injury attorney may investigate where the crash happened, get copies of police reports, and interview eyewitnesses. They also may look at the other driver’s car and get their driving and cell phone records. All of this is important to establish whether the other driver was negligent.
- Expert consultations: Your lawyer will probably consult experts to strengthen your case, such as doctors, accident reconstruction specialists, scientists and engineers, economists, and mechanics.
- Insurance company negotiation: Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance adjuster to try to settle the case without a lawsuit. But if no fair settlement is offered, the case may proceed to trial.
This is when you formally file the car accident lawsuit against the negligent driver. While settlement negotiations can go on, you and your lawyer are now preparing for a trial.
- File lawsuit: This is where you provide the court with a written complaint and documentation, pay a filing fee, and serve the other driver with the lawsuit documentation.
- Discovery: Both parties share documents, evidence, and other information. You may need to answer written questions from the other attorney; these are called interrogatories. You even may need to give a sworn deposition where you answer questions from the defendant’s attorney, which is taken down by a court reporter.
- Mediation and settlement: Every lawsuit is a risk for both sides. Juries can surprise you and you might end up with nothing. That is why a good Portland car accident lawyer attempts to settle cases through mediation. Mediation is used when settlement negotiations have stalled and allowed the parties to attempt to reach a settlement before a neutral 3rd party before the case goes to court. Judges often order both sides into mediation before the case goes to trial.
#3 Trial and Appeal
Most car accident lawsuits are resolved before going to trial, but sometimes a trial is necessary. Make sure you hire a good attorney who has the experience to take a case to trial and win.
- Trial court: Most personal injury lawsuits are jury trials. The jury will listen to each side’s evidence and arguments. Based on the law, the jury will come up with a verdict. The trial can last days or weeks. If the jury rules in your favor, they will then decide how much you should get in damages.
- Court of appeals: If there was a major error in the case, such as the wrong law being applied, you may be able to appeal if you do not win your case.
The car accident lawsuit process is complex, expensive, and takes a lot of time. While your attorney may advise you to go to trial for your case, most of these cases end in settlement. Going to court is a high-risk endeavor even if you have serious injuries. Juries are unpredictable by nature. But if your attorney advises you to go to trial after settlement negotiations have stalled, they must think you have a good chance to win.