California has seen a 33% increase in car accidents resulting in serious injury since 2014. It’s more important than ever to understand your legal rights. Legal knowledge allows you to protect yourself and your finances, should you be involved in a crash. Learn about the processes of a car accident lawsuit here.
Seeking Medical Care After Car Accident
In the moments immediately following a car accident, your first concern should always be addressing any injuries you may have sustained from the collision.
If you need medical attention, it is crucial that you get it right away, not only for your own well-being but also because obtaining an official record of when and how you sustained these injuries will be vital in getting compensation down the line.
To determine exactly the compensation you are entitled to, the first steps will be getting the medical help you need and then finding a lawyer to assess the impact the injuries will have on your life.
Investigation Begins and a Demand Letter Is Sent
Once you hire a lawyer, they will begin to collect all pertinent information related to your car accident claim. During this phase, your legal team will collect extensive evidence regarding the accident, such as photos of the scene, witness statements, and medical records in order to build the strongest case possible.
Once all this relevant information is gathered, they will submit a demand letter to the at-fault driver’s insurance company, typically beginning a negotiation process between your attorney and insurer. Many personal injury cases settle out of court, and your chances of avoiding a lawsuit are higher with an experienced lawyer on your side.
However, if your insurer still tries to give you an insufficient offer, your attorney may suggest that you file a lawsuit.
Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit and Mediation
If you and your legal team decide that the best course of action is to pursue a lawsuit, the timeline will begin with the filing of the suit. After, your lawyer has 30 to 60 days to serve the defendant. Then, the defendant has 30 days to respond.
Once a car accident lawsuit is filed and the court sets its deadlines, parties move into the discovery stage. This is when both legal teams seek additional inquiries regarding the accident. Attorneys conduct interrogatories (written requests for admission or denial), depositions (oral questionings), and interrogatories (written questionings). Depending on your case, this process can be quite lengthy.
Individuals subject to questioning can include drivers, witnesses, police, and medical personnel who provided treatment. This process is vital in determining the basic facts of the case. It also establishes who holds responsibility for the accident and its aftermath.
You should be aware of certain factors of the investigation. Some factors affect how long the process of receiving compensation will take. These are the aspects of the accident that can have the greatest impact on the timeline of your claim:
a. Determination of Fault
Determining who is primarily liable for the accident is critical. This ascertains who bears greater financial responsibility for damages. In many cases, it can be unclear or disputed who is at fault. Therefore, a thorough investigation will be conducted to determine the degree of fault of each party.
b. Calculation of Damages
Estimating the value of the damages suffered in the accident will also be essential to your case. Insurers will determine the amount by assessing the full cost of your medical bills, income lost, and property damage. There are also more abstract factors to consider, such as the emotional impact or long-term consequences of the incident. This can be more difficult to determine and can take some time for your attorney or insurer to research.
C. The Extent of Your Injuries and Recovery Process
The immediate physical impact of the accident may be evident. However, the length of recovery can be initially unclear. Full recovery may have to be reached first to fully assess the extent of damages.
Settlement negotiations can continue throughout the pretrial phase (between nine to eighteen months after filing). Also, if parties are unable to come to an agreement, the judge may order an attorney to mediate a negotiation.
If the case still has yet to settle during the course of this phase, it moves to trial.
The Car Accident Trial Process
When the case goes to trial, both parties will be able to introduce evidence and call witnesses. After each party’s information has been exchanged and cross-examination is completed, closing arguments will be presented to the court.
While car accident trials are typically short (a few days), more complicated cases can go on much longer. There is no maximum limit on how long this can take. Whether a single judge or a jury hears your case will depend on the nature of the suit.
If you win or are able to reach a settlement during the trial, compensation is disbursed within 30 days of the verdict.
Important Deadlines to Be Aware Of
If you want to file for an accident claim or settlement in California, it is important that you understand the state’s Statute of Limitations (deadline for filing a claim).
If there is more than $1,000 in damages, or any person was hurt or killed in the accident, the accident must be reported. State laws require that a police report is filed. In addition, the DMV must be notified within 10 days of the date of the accident.
Note that reporting the accident is not the same as suing for the damages. If you want to file a suit, it is crucial to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Then, they can have more time to assess your damages accurately.
California law states that you can file a suit for personal injuries within two years of the accident. Sometimes, injuries do not become immediately apparent. If bodily damage is not detected, victims have time to file a claim. The statute begins on the date of injury. Therefore, if the injury is later discovered, they can begin filing a claim on that later day. However, it’s always best to confirm these details with legal experts, so important deadlines are not missed.
When to Accept a Settlement Offer
An alternative to a lawsuit is filing a settlement claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. If you decide that you do not want to pursue a lawsuit, you may be limited to the compensation that is offered to you.
Insurance companies are incentivized to offer as little as possible. While you might be able to be compensated more quickly, there may be a large portion of damages that were not accounted for.
Although more time-consuming than an insurance claim, filing a lawsuit could increase your likelihood of receiving fair and full compensation for damages. An experienced attorney will thoroughly investigate the accident, file the legal complaint, and initiate the lawsuit process on your behalf.
An attorney will also help you in negotiating, as well as assessing if a settlement offered to you during the lawsuit is worth accepting, as opposed to proceeding with a suit. This process can be more lengthy but is often worth undergoing so that you are fully compensated for damages.
Get the Experts on Your Side
When you’re injured in a car accident, getting your health and finances under control can feel like an insurmountable task. Angeleno Accident Lawyers can help you file a car accident lawsuit. This allows you to regain that control of your case and your life.
If you’ve been hurt in a car accident in the Los Angeles area, contact our team of experienced legal experts today. Free consultations are offered to get started.