If you were injured in a car accident, you may need to file a lawsuit to receive compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of companionship, as insurance companies rarely cover these without a lawsuit.
Filing a Lawsuit
These are known as personal injury or tort cases, and most states require the lawsuit to be filed within two years of the date of the car accident. It will explain why you, the plaintiff, should receive compensation from the other driver, the defendant.
The defendant and his insurance company can respond to the claim within a certain amount of time. The response may include his confession or denial of the accident, or a counterclaim which explains your contribution to the crash.
This phase requires both parties to share facts and documents with each other before the trial. The three types of discovery are:
- Written discovery – Both parties can question each other and both the defendant and plaintiff may have to admit or deny facts that are essential to the case.
- Document production – This process allows both sides access to nearly every document related to the case.
- Depositions – These sworn statements are given outside of the courtroom by defendants, plaintiffs, witnesses, and doctors. Each will explain the facts of the accident and the doctor will explain the injuries and treatment.
It’s possible that the defendant’s attorney will file a motion early in the case. They include:
- Motion for change of venue – If granted, this would move your case to a different courthouse.
- Motion for a change of judge – The current judge would be removed from the case and a new judge would be assigned.
- Motion for removal – This would move your case from state court to federal court if the motion shows that the defendant is from another state or the case involves federal law.
- Motion to dismiss – This motion could claim the suit was not filed in a timely manner or that the plaintiff is not eligible for compensation.
As long as the motion to dismiss is not granted, the judge will set a trial date. It could a year or more before your case is heard by the judge and jury. During the pre-trial hearing, the judge could order mediation. This means both sides meet with a mediator in an attempt to settle the case prior to trial.
If mediation is not successful, your case will head to trial. Not many accident cases make it this far because it is a big risk to leave the outcome to a judge or jury. You may be granted a lot less than you were hoping for.