Being injured in a car accident is stressful enough before the reality of recovering damages sets in. Will the insurance company pay enough to cover your medical expenses? What about lost pay from time spent away from work and the emotional trauma that can often result from serious injuries? While there are no easy answers to these questions, having a basic understanding of the legal process following an accident can sometimes be reassuring. Every personal injury claim is unique, but most will adhere to a similar progression.
The Immediate Aftermath and Filing
The immediate aftermath of most accidents will primarily involve the insurance companies of both drivers. During this stage, the police and both insurance companies will attempt to determine fault for the accident. While most people think that insurance companies will defer to the determination of the police report, this is not always the case. Each insurance can conduct its own investigation, especially if fault for the accident is not clear cut.
It is important to understand that you do not need to wait for this determination to consult with an attorney. In fact, consulting with a lawyer early is important because it can often take some time for your attorney to evaluate the merits of your case. Your lawyer will want to interview you about the details of your accident, review your medical bills, and determine the likelihood that your case will be successful. This takes time, so getting a head start on the process is vital.
Once you have determined that you will be initiating a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney will file a complaint with a local court. During this time, there will be a period of back-and-forth between your attorney and the defendant's counsel. The purpose of this phase is to give the defendant time to respond to your complaint and, possibly, to make their own complaint against you.
Motions and Discovery
Once claims have been made, the defendant may choose to file a number of possible motions. For the most part, these motions are made for technical reasons and may include attempts to move the trial to a different court or different judge. A motion to dismiss may be filed as well if the defendant's attorney believes that your claim is invalid.
If your case moves forward, you will either enter mediation or go directly to discovery. Mediation is a final attempt to negotiate a settlement without proceeding towards a trial, and mediation may be ordered by the judge before the case can proceed. The discovery phase is a period where both your attorney and the defendant's attorney will begin to conduct investigations into the circumstances of the accident. These investigations will include depositions, which are sworn witness statements taken out of a courtroom setting. Discovery can potentially last up to a year, so expect your case to remain in this phase for quite a while.
Settlement or Trial
As the discovery phase begins to draw towards its conclusion, your attorney will begin to negotiate with the other involved parties. The goal during this phase is to use the information acquired during discovery to potentially settle out of court. The vast majority of civil lawsuits end in settlement, so often a reasonable agreement can be reached during these negotiations.
In rare cases, negotiations fail and your only remaining option is to proceed to trial. Despite the fact that it may take a year or more to finally reach trial, most personal injury trials are settled in less than two weeks. The majority may only last a few days, after which you will receive your verdict and, if successful, be awarded damages.
Go to sites like http://www.cookevilleinjurylaw.net/ to find an auto accident attorney who can help you.