Every year, approximately 1.35 million people are killed in traffic accidents worldwide. Even more, car accidents are the leading cause of death and severe injuries for Americans ages 1 to 54. The fact is, a car accident can change your life in an instant. Many people have significant injuries that leave them unable to work and pay bills. If you have an auto accident injury, you’re likely feeling stressed and overwhelmed about how to file an auto accident lawsuit.
Learning more about car accident lawsuits will reduce your stress and simplify the process. Keep reading this guide to learn everything you need to know about filing a car accident lawsuit.
Understanding Who Can File an Auto Accident Lawsuit
Before you do anything else, you must understand your state’s laws when it comes to filing accident lawsuits.
The first part of filing an auto accident lawsuit is understanding that each state has different rules that affect your ability to file a lawsuit. There are 12 no-fault states that mandate that drivers must use their own insurance policies to pay for crash injuries.
If you live in a no-fault state, you can’t rely on the other driver’s insurance to pay for your injuries. This is the case even if they were at fault for the accident.
No-fault states have a streamlined process that allows you to get compensation for medical bills and lost income. You can also get coverage for other medical services if you have severe injuries that affect your ability to get around.
You won’t be able to get compensation for pain and suffering damages in no-fault states. Most of the time, your compensation is limited to what your insurance company agrees to pay.
However, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver if the accident caused significant injury as defined by your state’s law. Most states define serious injuries as death, dismemberment, bone fractures, or permanent injuries.
You can also file if the accident caused medical bills over a certain dollar amount.
Statute of Limitations
Next, you must be aware of the lawsuit filing deadline in your state. Although you have the right to claim compensation for your injuries, you must make this claim within a specific time frame.
This deadline is in place because evidence gets lost over time, and memories of the accident naturally become fuzzy.
Most states have limitations between 1 and 4 years, but some may be as long as six.
Get Information and Collect Evidence
Your next step is to gather all the information and accident evidence you have to this point.
Many people don’t realize that what you do immediately after the accident is critical to the lawsuit filing process. If the accident just occurred, you may be able to go back and get evidence you missed easily.
If it’s been a few months, then you have some work to do.
You’ll need all medical documents showing any treatments, therapies, and medications you’ve had up until now.
If you haven’t had a medical exam, you must see a doctor. Whiplash injuries and sprains or strains are common car accident injuries. These injuries often don’t show immediate symptoms, and sometimes, it takes a few days after the accident to start feeling pain.
In addition, car accident injuries can cause long-term pain and other complications. Motor vehicle accidents are also the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD causes lingering feelings of helplessness, grief, and shock. Many people also develop avoidance behaviors and will avoid driving.
Overall, you should never minimize any symptoms after an auto accident. Be sure to see a doctor and get the treatment you need.
Not doing this can also impact how much of a settlement you receive. When this occurs, you can end up with injuries you’re not compensated for.
Contact Information and Insurance
First, you need the other driver’s name, address, and phone number. Insurance policy information and driver’s license number are also necessary. You should also get the names and phone numbers of any accident witnesses.
If you find you’re missing any of this information, getting a copy of the police report will help.
Pictures and Videos of the Accident Scene
It’s also best to have pictures and videos of the accident scene. You’ll need to take photos of your car and the other driver’s car. Be sure to get closeups of the damage at various angles.
It’s also a good idea to take pictures that show the car’s positions on the road and in relation to each other. Take photos of skidmarks on the roadway or further damage to things like guard rails and trees.
Taking pictures and videos of the overall accident scene is also helpful. This allows you to capture details of the accident day, such as weather or anything else that may have contributed.
Find a Reputable Auto Accident Lawyer
Your first step is finding an auto accident lawyer to work with. You’ll need to do thorough research to find experienced lawyers in your area. Make a list of the top five lawyers and read Google reviews.
Look at the website for each attorney you’re considering to get a good idea about their practice and areas of expertise. You’ll need an attorney specializing in auto accidents like you’ve had, which may involve a motorcycle or Uber.
It’s wise to check with your local bar association to ensure the attorney you choose is licensed to practice in your area.
Initial Consult and Case Review
Once you find a reputable attorney you’re comfortable with, you’ll need to go for an initial consult. The attorney will use this consultation to review the preliminary evidence to determine the strength of your case.
The key to personal injury cases is determining who is at fault for the accident. Your attorney will need to see whether your evidence proves the other driver is at fault or not.
If you have a solid case, the attorney will proceed to the next steps.
Discuss Attorney’s Fees
You’ll also discuss attorney fees. Attorneys typically charge you by the hour for their work. In these cases, you may have to pay a retainer fee to secure their services.
This fee usually equals 4 to 5 hours of work, and you’ll get a refund if the case takes less time.
However, many experienced car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means your lawyer won’t charge by the hour or charge a retainer fee. Instead, they’ll charge you a percentage of the settlement you receive.
This percentage varies for each attorney, so you’ll need to get an estimate during the consultation.
Discuss Average Settlement Amounts
Your attorney will also review the expected settlement amount for your case. This will depend on the type of injury you have. Back and neck injuries tend to pay more.
This is because they can cause severe symptoms like chronic back pain, limited motor function, and ongoing fatigue and weakness. These injuries also cause pain and suffering so that you can get more compensation for emotional distress and other health problems.
You can also get compensation for loss of quality of life if you lose your ability to work or participate in hobbies.
According to an article source here, back and spinal cord injury settlements average around $100,00 but can pay up to $500,000.
Regardless of the exact nature of your injury, you should get more compensation for severe injuries that impact your life. Your attorney will review this with you so you understand what your settlement can be.
The more evidence you have of your injuries and the other driver’s negligence, the better your chances of winning the lawsuit.
Obtain More Evidence
Your attorney will attempt to get more evidence that supports your case. This can involve more medical exams and medical treatment records.
They’ll typically search for more accident witnesses to get more statements.
Attorneys can also request video from local businesses or other cameras with footage of the accident.
They may also call experts to examine the accident scene or your medical records. These expert witnesses will offer their expert opinion in court. This is especially important if there is a debate over who was actually at fault for the accident.
File a Complaint
The lawsuit officially begins once you file a complaint. The complaint is an official document consisting of numbered paragraphs. Each paragraph must contain specific information like:
- Names of both parties
- When and where the car accident occurred
- How the car accident occurred
- Why the other driver (defendant) is responsible for your injuries
- What injuries and damages you have
In certain states, your complaint must specify the exact damages you want to recover. Your attorney will let you know about the rules in your state.
Serve the Defendant
You must serve the defendant before anything else can happen with the lawsuit. The way the lawsuit is delivered depends on the state you live in.
Some states require that you serve the lawsuit 30 days after filing the complaint. Other states have different rules around this time frame. You must follow the rules of each state, or the court could dismiss your lawsuit for failing to serve the defendant properly.
Once the defendant is served, they’ll respond to the complaint. This response is known as a written request or a motion. Usually, the defendant will use the motion to ask the court to dismiss the case.
If the court denies the motion for dismissal or the defendant doesn’t ask to dismiss, they’ll file an answer. The answer is a document with numbered paragraphs that admit or deny your claims.
Discovery is essential to the lawsuit, allowing you and the other driver to exchange information. There are numerous auto accident lawsuit documents allowed in the discovery phase, like:
- Detailed information about both parties
- Facts about how the accident happened
- Witness information
- Law enforcement and first responder information
- Claims and defenses for both parties
- List of damages and injuries
The purpose both of the discovery process is to give both parties the chance to gather facts to support their case. For car accidents, you’ll face specific types of discovery methods.
First, interrogatories allow for written questions from one party to the other. You must provide a written answer under oath if you receive these questions.
Requests for inspection objects are also common. This usually includes documents showing inspections of the cars in the accident.
You may also have depositions of witnesses under oath. Depositions involve the verbal questioning of these parties. A court recorder will record all questions and answers in a transcript.
Finally, you may face a request for a physical and mental examination by a health care provider the defendant chooses.
Negotiations and Trial
After discovery, your case will move to trial. Most car accident cases involve a jury, but your attorney can ask a judge to try the case. This is because more complex cases sometimes succeed more with only a judge.
Once the trial begins, both parties will make opening statements and present the evidence they have. Your attorney will present all your evidence, including witness testimony, medical documents, and other exhibits.
The defendant will be able to present their evidence and cross-examine your witnesses.
A jury or judge will consider all the evidence and reach a verdict. If you win the case, the court will decide on a fair settlement to cover your damages.
If the defendant wins, you won’t get any compensation for your injuries. Your attorney will then talk to you about the next steps if you lose the case.
Learning How to File an Auto Accident Lawsuit
Now that you know how to file an auto accident lawsuit, you’ll find the entire process much less stressful overall.
Remember, auto accident lawsuits can be challenging, so taking things one day at a time is best. Don’t be afraid to ask your attorney as many questions as you need to feel comfortable.
For more helpful tips and tricks, be sure to read the rest of our blog articles today!