Most people tend to believe that all legal claims or cases will eventually end up in front of a jury, especially with the countless TV shows and movies reinforcing that idea, showing scenes of dramatic cross-examinations and tense closing arguments following a simple car crash. However, in reality, this is far from the truth. In fact, the majority of accident claims do not even make it inside a courtroom since most of these cases are settled before trial.
With that having been said, it is still important to know what can happen if you have been involved in a motor vehicle crash. Specifically, what happens during settlement negotiations, how often car accidents cases actually go to court, and what occurs during a trial for a motor vehicle collision. That is why in this blog post, we will cover all of these issues, including how an experienced car accident attorney can provide you the legal help you need to get through this challenging legal ordeal.
Will Your Motor Vehicle Accident Case Go to Trial?
In general, most motor vehicle accident injury claims settle before they ever get inside a courtroom. In fact, studies show that almost 95 percent of all injury claims are settled pretrial. Why is this? Because settling before trial is often preferred since there are numerous advantages to settling over litigating a case.
In truth, settling is faster, less risky, and less expensive than going to trial. Yet, there are often many elements that will go into determining whether a case will settle or proceed to trial, including the extent of the injuries sustained, the strength of the case, and the lawyer’s ability to convince the insurance company and the other side that they do not want to risk heading to trial.
Why Do Car Accident Cases End Up Going to Trial?
Although most car accident victims would prefer to get their cases settled as quickly as possible, it is not always in their best interest to do so. For example, it is not outside the norm for an insurance company to offer you a settlement offer shortly after your car accident in hopes of you accepting this offer as soon as possible, without checking with a lawyer if this settlement is fair to you.
Consequently, what may end up happening is you accept this offer only to find out that it is a meager amount of money that barely covers your current medical expenses, let alone any of your future medical bills and ongoing care. Yet, because you accepted this offer, you cannot ask for more money down the road.
That is why, if you receive any settlement offer from the insurance company following your motor vehicle collision, you should first run it by an experienced car accident lawyer. These attorneys can look into this offer and make sure it is fair to you. If it is not, they can head back to the negotiation table with the insurance company and fight for an amount that is. If the insurance company is not willing to negotiate fairly, your lawyer can proceed to trial.
What Happens if a Car Accident Case Goes to Trial?
Heading to trial is often a stressful ordeal, primarily because of everything involved with this process. That is why at this point, it is particularly beneficial to have a skilled car accident attorney on your side. These lawyers can walk you through this whole legal process, helping to ensure that you understand everything that is going on, that your claim is prepared for trial, and that it is carefully presented to the court.
Typically, when your case goes to trial, the various steps involved with this process include the following:
Presenting the Evidence to the Court
During the trial, your attorney needs to provide evidence that can convince the judge or the jury that it is “more likely than not” that another motorist or individual was negligent or caused your injuries in the motor vehicle collision. Since this standard of proof is relatively low, even if the jury members are uncertain about what happened, it can still mean you can win the case.
Evidence That Your Lawyer Can Produce at Trial
Your lawyer can present different types of evidence in a trial, including:
- Expert testimony, such as from medical professionals who treated you after the accident
- Medical records and accident reports
- Witness testimony
- Other evidence that can prove what happened, who was at fault, and the extent of your damages
Once your evidence is presented, the other side will be able to cross-examine your witnesses and provide objections to the evidence presented. Plus, they will then have a turn to offer their own evidence. Finally, after both sides show their side, the decision goes to the judge or the jury.
Depending on the state where the accident happened, the case may be tried by either a judge or a jury. However, generally, when injury cases go to trial, a jury often hears them. As a result, after both sides have presented their case, the jury will now have to decide who was at fault for the motor vehicle accident and how much money should be awarded to the victim for their damages.
It is important to note that this deliberation period can take anywhere from a few hours to days, depending on the severity of the case. Yet, if you win and the other side does not file an appeal, you can start to recover the compensation you won.
Settling During Trial
What many people may not realize is even once the trial has started, the case can settle. For instance, even if the jury is deliberating on the issue, the parties can still come together and come up with a settlement agreement.
If the parties agree to settle, it usually means that the victim will receive a one-time payment that has been mutually agreed upon by the parties, and the at-fault party will usually not have to admit fault for what happened.
Damages You Can Get After a Car Accident
If you have been injured because of another person’s wrongful actions, you may be entitled to certain types of compensation. This compensation often includes the following damages:
Economic Damages: These damages refer to the actual losses that result following an accident, including:
- Medical expenses, including your past, present, and future medical bills, including doctor visits, emergency services, prescription medications, surgeries, and hospital stay
- Lost wages
- Personal property damages
- Lost earning capacity
- At-home nursing care
- Replacement home services such as child care or cleaning services
- Rehabilitative therapy
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Non-Economic Damages: These damages refer to the personal losses from an accident and are not easy to quantify.
They can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of a limb
- Loss of reputation
Punitive Damages: In some cases, you may also receive punitive damages. However, unlike the other damages, which compensate the victim for their losses, punitive damages punish the wrongdoer for egregious actions and serve as a deterrent for others from committing the same act. Yet, to receive these damages, the victim’s attorney needs to show with clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s gross negligence or intentional misconduct caused the victim’s harm.
How Much Is a Car Accident Case Worth?
Every victim wants to know what their car accident case is worth, especially since it can help them decide if they want to proceed to trial to get this money. Unfortunately, various factors can affect the value of a car accident claim, meaning that no lawyer can tell you exactly how much your case is worth.
These factors often include:
- The age of the victim
- The health of the victim before the car crash occurred
- The extent of the injuries that resulted from the car accident
- The medical treatments required after the car accident
- The duration of these treatments and whether they will be needed in the future
- The likelihood of recovery for the injuries that resulted from the accident
- The timeline for this recovery
- The impact of these injuries on the victim’s life and their ability to enjoy activities they did before the accident
- The defendant’s culpability
- The credibility of the witnesses and the evidence presented
Yet, even though a lawyer cannot tell you precisely how much money you can receive from a car accident when you retain an experienced car accident attorney following your crash, these lawyers can review these factors, figure out which ones can impact your claim, and prepare a strong case in response to them—fighting for the maximum compensation you deserve.
The Statute of Limitations to Bring an Injury Claim Following a Car Accident
Following a motor vehicle accident, it is important to realize that if you want to bring a claim for your injuries, there are specific time limitations that you will need to meet. The statute of limitations are laws set by states that dictate the maximum amount of time you have to file a claim after an alleged offense. If you do not bring the claim within this allotted time, you can be barred from collecting compensation for your injuries and losses.
Depending on the state where you are filing your injury claim, the deadline to file can range anywhere from a year to a few years. However, there are often various exceptions to this law that can shorten or lengthen the amount of time you have to file your case. That is why, following your collision, it is best not to wait too long to get legal help. Once you reach out to an experienced attorney, these lawyers can not only determine the exact amount of time you have to file your claim, but they can also help ensure that your legal documents and motions are adequately prepared and filed before time expires.
Preparing Your Case For Trial With an Experienced Legal Team on Your Side
Although settling your car accident claim out of court is often ideal, it is still important to ensure you are prepared to head to trial if necessary. Not only can this give you more leverage when it comes to settlement discussions, but it can ensure you are ready to fight for the maximum damages you are entitled to.
That is why following your car accident, you should speak with a skilled and knowledgeable car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Once you retain these lawyers, they can:
- Go over your car accident in detail, evaluate your potential legal claim, and help you figure out the legal options you should pursue.
- Answer all the questions you have regarding your car accident and the next steps in the legal process.
- Investigate the motor vehicle accident, unearthing evidence that can show what happened, who was at fault, and the amount of compensation you deserve.
- Gather valuable evidence, such as photos and videos of the damages and details from the accident scene, witness testimony, medical records, and police reports.
- Consult with the experts such as accident reconstructionists, forensic specialties, vehicle design experts, and medical experts to help substantiate your claim.
- Handle all the negotiations with the insurance company and the other side and fight for the just settlement offer you need.
- Take your case to trial if the other side is unwilling to negotiate and fight for maximum damages.
If you or a loved one was in a car accident, do not wait any longer to seek legal help. Instead, reach out to an experienced car accident attorney today for your free case consultation and let these lawyers show you how they can fight for you and the justice you deserve.