If you’ve been in a car accident, there are a few options. If no one was injured and there was no damage to either car, you may exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver and decide not to even bother with a claim. In some cases, you may file a claim with an insurer. In more extreme situations, though, filing a car accident lawsuit may be youronly chance at securing fair compensation.
What Factors Should Be Considered When Making the Decision To File a Lawsuit For a Car Accident?
Being in a car accident is expensive, and if the collision was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit for your car accident to pursue compensation. As a general rule of thumb, the more serious the car accident and injuries, the more likely it is you’ll want to file a car accident lawsuit. This is not the only factor to consider, though. You will also want to think about:
- Your financial situation. Some studies suggest that 66.5 percent of bankruptcies in the United States are caused by medical expenses or lack of work, so if your car accident injury results in medical bills or loss of income and you cannot absorb that cost easily, you might consider a car accident lawsuit.
- Your future costs. Some injuries and car accidents result in longer-term costs. For example, car insurance or health insurance premiums may go up or you may have ongoing costs related to an injury. Even a lost tooth can mean you need to replace a crown or bridge for the rest of your life, increasing your dental costs. Some of these future costs may be recoverable in a lawsuit.
- The impact on your life. A civil lawsuit for a car accident allows plaintiffs to seek compensation for pain and suffering. If your relationships, self-confidence, daily activities, or life will be affected by facial scarring, loss of a limb, trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other injuries, you may wish to consider a lawsuit. Compensation can help pay for counseling, therapy, and support.
- What is covered. After a car collision, some of your losses may be covered by medical and car accident insurance, but it can be difficult to get some expenses covered. If you need dental implants or crowns, surgery for facial scarring, skin grafts, or some other treatments, insurers may claim these are not medically necessary procedures. Filing a lawsuit can help you pay for damages that the other insurance company has denied.
- Insurance. Car insurance companies often want to settle claims quickly and inexpensively, which can mean you are asked to decide on a settlement before you know the extent of your injuries. If an insurance company offers you a low settlement that doesn’t cover your costs or your claim is denied, a lawsuit can be one way to get fairer compensation.
- The circumstances surrounding the accident. If the other driver was drunk, distracted, or making errors that caused the accident and your injuries, filing a claim helps you hold that driver accountable. For some survivors of a car crash, pursuing a lawsuit can help them get a sense of closure.
- Your injuries. Severe, permanent injuries such as spinal cord injuries or head injuries can mean millions of dollars in medical care over a lifetime and the end of a career. It is uncommon for an insurance company to pay the full amount a plaintiff will need for a serious injury unless a plaintiff pursues a lawsuit.
Some drivers think they don’t have a claim because they don’t think negligence was a factor in their car crash or they assume they won’t have a strong case because their actions may have contributed to the collision. In reality, it is difficult to tell at the scene what caused a car accident and how much your claim may be worth. It’s useful to have a consultation with an attorney, like the legal team at Johnson Garcia, soon after your collision.
An attorney can explain whether you may have a claim and how much your claim may be worth, which can help you decide whether you wish to pursue a lawsuit. An attorney’s opinion is important, and you’ll want to get a consultation before you make any final decisions in your case.
Why Is Having Representation Useful When Filing a Lawsuit?
A civil lawsuit for a car accident is a complex process, and attorneys have the litigation and negotiation experience needed to navigate the legal system. Since insurance companies have attorneys representing them, you will likely struggle to win against their legal team unless you have an attorney of your own. Your attorney may also have access to expert witnesses, private investigators, accident reconstruction experts, and medical professionals to strengthen your case.
With an attorney on your case, you can focus on healing from your injuries while your attorney takes care of your legal claim. Your attorney also keeps you informed about the status of your case and handles the complex paperwork and requirements for the lawsuit.
What Are the Steps Required To File a Lawsuit?
If you want to file a car accident civil lawsuit, working with an attorney can start the process. Your attorney will ask you about your injuries and car accident and ask to see any evidence or documentation you may have. An attorney will then take care of all the steps of the lawsuit, which include:
- Filing a petition. A petition or complaint lists your claims and gives the other driver and their team a deadline for responding.
- Challenging any motions. The other driver and their insurance company can file various motions, including a motion to have the claim dismissed, to have a different judge, to move the trial to another city or court, or may file additional motions to delay the trial or to gain some advantage. You and your attorney will be able to challenge any motions with legal responses.
- Discovery: The discovery process involves gathering all the evidence and interviewing the witnesses. You may need to be interviewed by the other party’s attorneys and your own attorney can prepare you for this. Any evidence either side uncovers during the process must be shared with the other side.
- Setting the court date: A court date will depend on when a judge can hear the case and the cases which need to be heard before the court.
- Mediation: A judge may ask both parties to try to come to an agreement by working with a mediator.
Car accident lawsuits do not always follow a predictable pattern. A settlement offer may be made and accepted during the process, which can halt the lawsuit. In some car accident cases, unexpected events can occur which your attorney can help you navigate.
What Are the Potential Outcomes?
No two lawsuits are the same and there is no guarantee that your claim will be successful. In general, you will either succeed in getting a lawsuit or not, but the path to these different outcomes can look different. For example, you can reach a settlement or be awarded a judgment. You may lose the claim or decide to drop the claim.
Since your finances are affected by the outcome, it’s important to work with a car accident attorney who has successfully secured fair settlements for car accident plaintiffs before. An experienced attorney can present the strongest case to help you improve the chances of a positive outcome.
How Can Johnson Garcia Help?
The legal team at Johnson Garcia Law has decades of combined experience litigating car crash settlements. Our goal is to seek fair compensation so injured plaintiffs have the resources to rebuild their lives after a car collision. If you’re one of the 20-50 million Americans injured in a car accident each year, keep in mind that a car insurance company’s offer may not be in your best interests, and once you have accepted that offer you generally cannot pursue a legal claim. Before you make any choices about your car accident, contact Johnson Garcia for a consultation about your case.