Understanding What Happens in a Car Accident Lawsuit
On average, there are 6 million car accidents every year. After an individual is injured in a car crash, they may pursue a car accident lawsuit - here's what to know.
Being involved in a car accident can be a very traumatizing experience. For those who survive one, just the idea that they might not have survived can be haunting. When actual injury occurs, physical suffering is added to this psychological distress. And, for those who lose a loved one to the accident, there are no words to describe the pain.
This is not the proper time to also have to be concerned about not receiving fair compensation from the party who is responsible for the accident. Yet, this difficulty is exactly what people can find is added to this time of burden.
Individuals at fault can attempt to deny any responsibility, and insurance companies will most often be trying to get off with paying out the least amount of damages possible. Arming yourself with knowledge of a car accident lawsuit process – and with a good attorney – provides the best opportunity toward easing the stress of this ordeal.
Types of Compensation Available in a Lawsuit
This is true regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
California is not one of these no-fault states, which means that an investigation into the responsible party will become part of the litigation.
A benefit of this status as an at-fault establishing state is that the compensation for pain and suffering is able to be included in the settlement, but it also implies that the maintenance of accurate documentation surrounding the accident is imperative.
- 1. Reimbursement Compensation
The most easily obtained compensations in a car accident lawsuit include reimbursement for any tangible, monetary, loss that is due to the accident:
--- Receipts and estimates for vehicle repairs
--- Copies of medical bills
--- Numerical calculations of lost wages are typically hard to dispute
Where it can become more tricky is when it comes to receiving compensation for any “pain and suffering” which occurs. This term refers to the subjective experience of the injured individual.
In addition, iincludes compensation for persistent problems as a result of the accident.
- 2. Pain and Suffering Compensation
The definition of pain and suffering can include psychological effects of the accident, such as persistent anxiety, depression, or fear. Physiological effects are also considered, such as inability to sleep or eat, or the presence of persistent physical pain.
There are also provisions for more abstract concepts, such as an overall reduction in the enjoyment of life. Documentation for supporting claims of pain and suffering can include:
--- Personal journals
--- Affidavits from friends and family
Insurance compensation for pain and suffering is often determined through the use of a calculator. Because of this, their estimates may not encompass the fullness of the effects.
- 3. Loss of Consortium Compensation
Family members of an individual killed or incapacitated during an at-fault auto accident are also entitled to seek compensation through a car accident lawsuit.
This provision is considered a loss of consortium, and encompasses a loss of emotional and physical companionship as a result of the accident.
Children and spouses of the injured or deceased individual are the ones most commonly awarded damages under these conditions.
How a Car Accident Lawsuit Works
During a car accident lawsuit, one thing to be on alert for is the common tendency of an insurance company to be stingy with compensation offerings.
Insurance companies make their money by bringing it in from the policy holders, and don’t like to let it go.
It is customary for the insurance company’s first offer to be a lowball one. And, in many cases, not only will the insurance company be wanting to retain their funds, they will also attempt to pressure the victim into acting quickly.
It pays – literally – to be mindful of these pressuring tactics. Resolve to take the time needed to ensure that you are receiving adequate compensation for the injury.
Refusal of the Compensation Offer
If you do not like the amount of compensation that is offered to you by the offending party, or from their insurance company, you may want to obtain an attorney who is specialized in auto accident cases.
Many auto accident attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning that you will not be expected to pay them anything, up front. Fees for their services are subtracted from the amount of money that is obtained following an agreement on settlement compensation.
These fees will cover areas such as your attorney’s time spent in negotiations with the other party; time spent in court; and time investigating the details of the accident.
Statutes of Limitations
Statutes of limitations exist for the claim, which determine how long after the accident you will have to bring your case to court.
In California, this statute of limitations is typically two years from the date of the accident which caused injury, or two years from the date of a death which resulted from the accident.
You will want to ensure that you are consulting with any attorneys about your potential car accident lawsuit as soon after the accident as you are able.
After filing for a claim, you need to understand you're in for an ongoing battle. You – or your attorney – will need to utilize all documented resources to support your cause.
Your team must defend all aspects of sought compensation. It is not uncommon for the opposing side to attempt to dismiss or diminish any claims of non-tangible distress, or to assert that you are technically the one responsible for your own distress.
At any point during the litigation, both parties are free to reach an amicable settlement. If no settlement is reached, and following the completion of a discovery of information phase, a motion for judgment will be made.
If you have proven successful in your claim, the judge will make a final order during a trial. The trial date can be set as far out into the future as a year from the order.
Your case may be decided by a single judge, or by a jury.