What Happens in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

What Happens in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

Serious auto accidents happen every day in the United States, with thousands killed and injured every year. Fortunately, there are ways that you can receive fair compensation after a car accident that was not your fault. Every state has laws and rules that allow injured parties to file a car accident lawsuit against the at-fault party.

If you were in a serious auto accident recently, it’s important to understand the car accident lawsuit process. Learn more about car accident lawsuits in this article, and speak to a Tampa car accident attorney if you have questions about your legal options.

Car Accident Lawsuit Overview

After a car accident that another person caused, the first step is to file a claim with your insurance company. If it is a serious accident, having a car accident attorney assist is always recommended to ensure you get fair compensation.

What Happens in a Car Accident Lawsuit

In most cases, your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company to receive a fair settlement for your medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages. The insurance company’s primary goal is to reduce its financial liability, so it may not offer as much money as you deserve.

If their settlement offer doesn’t fairly compensate you, your attorney may recommend that you file a car accident lawsuit. This will mean preparing a court case to present to a jury and arguing the best case for fair compensation for your losses. Most auto accident claims end in an insurance settlement, but filing a lawsuit may be necessary if you aren’t getting what you deserve.

Filing a suit can lead to the insurance company offering a higher settlement. But, if negotiations don’t work out, going to court with a car accident lawsuit may be your best option.

Steps In A Car Accident Lawsuit

The basic steps of a car accident lawsuit are below. Keep in mind that deciding to file a lawsuit is a big decision. There are many steps in the litigation process, and resolving the case can take many months, even years, depending on the court’s schedule and your injuries. There also is a chance that the jury will rule against you, leaving you without compensation. However, there are cases when filing a lawsuit is best. Your car accident attorney will offer their best advice about whether to settle or sue, but the ultimate decision is yours.

Preliminary Car Accident Investigation

After a serious car accident, first responders will probably transport you to the ER. Even if you think you are not seriously hurt, always have a doctor look you over. You might have injuries you don’t notice initially that can worsen hours or days later.

The police should investigate the scene and include their findings in their accident report. This should include all parties involved, witnesses, and citations or arrests they made if officers decided one driver violated the law. These investigations and reports are critical to your insurance claim.

Medical Treatments

Getting prompt medical care is critical after most car accidents. Receiving medical care is important for treating injuries and getting you back to health. When you see the physician, talk about your injuries and pain. Don’t exaggerate. Giving them as much information as possible about your injuries will ensure you get the medical care needed to get back on your feet.

Also, be sure that you follow all of your doctor’s instructions and attend every follow-up appointment. Doing so will improve your condition faster. Also, your medical records are important to prove to the insurance company that you have serious accident injuries. If you file a claim or lawsuit, having your injuries and treatment plan in your medical records will help your case.

File An Insurance Claim

The next step in your car accident claim is to notify your insurance company about the accident. Your insurance policy requires you to inform them of any accident within a reasonable period, such as 30 days. If the other driver caused the accident, your insurance company may seek reimbursement from the other driver’s insurer. If you don’t promptly tell your insurance company about the accident, they may deny the claim later.

Car Accident Claim

If the other driver’s insurance company calls you, they may offer you a quick settlement and want to record the conversation. You should say as little as possible to their insurance company and never take the initial settlement offer. They may only offer to cover your current medical bills, and your accident claim can be worth much more. Retaining a car accident attorney and having them handle any interactions with the other driver’s insurance company is best.

Talk To A Car Accident Attorney 

You should strongly consider hiring an attorney if you were in an accident with significant property damage and injuries. After all, auto insurance companies have teams of attorneys and adjusters working on your case. You don’t want to go up against them without a personal injury attorney representing your interests.

Your car accident attorney will have the legal experience, skills, and financial resources to deal with any auto accident and insurance company. The auto accident attorney will handle every aspect of your case once you have signed a representation agreement.

Complete Accident And Medical Investigation 

Once your attorney is on board, they will review your medical records and history to see how seriously injured you are. This will help your attorney to assign a fair value to the case.

The attorney also will do an accident investigation after they review your medical records. They will obtain copies of law enforcement reports, speak to eyewitnesses, and possibly visit the accident scene. An accident reconstruction expert can be retained to prove how the accident happened. Your attorney has access to vast legal and financial resources, including many expert witnesses that can be important in a claim or lawsuit.

Demand For Settlement

Your attorney will compose a settlement demand letter once your injuries have partially or completely healed. It will go to the liable party’s insurance company. The demand letter states how the car accident happened, your injuries and medical treatments, and what you want in compensation for your medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.

The demand letter is usually the opening of settlement negotiations. Your attorney can go back and forth with the insurance adjuster several times over weeks or months to reach a fair settlement amount. The settlement number might be less than the maximum you wanted, but it should be well above the insurance adjuster’s initial offer.

Case Settlement Or File Lawsuit

Eventually, the insurance company will say they have made their final settlement offer. It is up to you and your car accident lawyer if you want to take the money now or file a lawsuit and hope for more from the jury. Your lawyer will advise you on your best options. In many cases, it may be preferable to take a settlement, as most car accident victims do.

Car Accident Lawsuit

The thinking is that you are guaranteed a certain amount of money today rather than rely on an uncertain jury verdict for possibly more later. What if the jury rules against you? Juries are often sympathetic to accident victims, but you might receive little to nothing if they aren't.

The final decision about taking a settlement or filing a lawsuit is yours. Only you can decide if you would rather resolve the case faster with a guaranteed sum instead of going to court.

Discovery Process

If you decide to forgo the settlement offer and file a lawsuit, lawyers on both sides will start the discovery process. This part of the lawsuit lets each side show and ask for evidence and documents from each other.

This period may entail written questions, or interrogatories, that each side gives the other. Some questions might be about injuries, medical treatments, income loss information, eyewitness statements, photos and videos from the scene, etc. When discovery is complete, the judge may order the sides to enter mediation.


Many civil courts require the parties to enter mediation before pursuing a lawsuit. Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution. A neutral third party, such as a retired judge or lawyer, facilitates a discussion between the plaintiff and defendant. The idea is to reach a mutually agreeable decision before going through the expense and time involved in a lawsuit. The mediator’s suggestions are non-binding, and parties can accept or reject the outcome.

How the mediation works logistically depends on the state. In some jurisdictions, you are in a room with your attorney, and the other side is in another room with theirs. The mediator moves between the rooms, allowing each side to present their views. After the positions of both sides are laid out, the mediation will attempt to find a solution. Mediation in your state can be different, so check with your attorney.

Court Trial 

If mediation doesn’t lead to a resolution, the car accident claim can go to trial. The attorneys for both sides will present their arguments to the panel and leave the decision to them. The judge will give the jury instructions to follow when evaluating the case.

Car Accident Lawyer

If the jury says that the other party’s negligence caused your car accident and injured you, they will award you a certain amount to compensate you. If the jury finds the other party didn’t cause the accident or injuries, you will not receive anything.

You only pay attorney fees if your attorney obtains a settlement or favorable verdict. The contingency agreement percentage can vary depending on the attorney and when the case is resolved. You generally do not pay legal fees if the case doesn’t result in compensation.

Should You Settle Or Sue For Your Car Accident Injuries? 

Whether you should settle or sue for the accident and your injuries comes down mostly to two things: money and time. You need to analyze and balance between what the other insurance company offers and what you think the full case value is worth, as well as if you can wait for a trial to be scheduled and decided. If your car accident lawyer thinks your case is worth $100,000 and the insurance company is offering $10,000, and the insurance company says it’s their final offer, you may have to file a lawsuit.

How far apart do the sides need to be before going to court is sensible? Every car accident claim is different, with no accurate ‘average’ settlement. In most accident claims, a settlement amount will fall in a range of similar cases and injuries. This is where having an experienced lawyer is critical.

James Holliday
James Holliday, Car Accident Lawyer in Tampa

Your attorney can tell you roughly what they think the case is worth based on their experience and recently resolved cases. Your case consists of economic and non-economic damages, and each can vary widely based on many factors. Economic damages are hard costs, such as medical bills and lost earnings. Non-economic damages are subjective losses, such as pain and suffering and loss of the ability to enjoy life. If your lawyer says your case is worth roughly $100,000, it may be that a reasonable range for settlement is between $90,000 and $110,000.

If the insurance adjuster offers $75,000, one might argue that it’s close enough to your low side value to consider. Remember that you will get the settlement money considerably faster than if the case goes to trial. Just getting the lawsuit on the court docket can take months. On the other hand, if the insurance company offers a small settlement and you have six figures of damages, going to court is probably the right decision.

This is always something you will carefully discuss with your lawyer before you proceed in either direction.

Speak To A Car Accident Attorney Today 

Being in a car accident with serious injuries and property damage can upend your life. Obtaining fair compensation for medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering, and lost earnings can be lengthy and stressful. However, a skilled car accident attorney has the experience to see a car accident claim or lawsuit through to a successful conclusion. If you were in a car accident recently, have your case reviewed by an experienced attorney today.

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James Wayne Holliday Author Image

James Wayne Holliday

James Wayne Holliday has been practicing law since 1995. He has been named as a “Best Attorney” Lifetime Charter Member in Florida, an honor awarded to less than one percent of the nation’s lawyers.

Mr. Holliday has earned a reputation as a relentless trial lawyer because of his outstanding work ethic and thorough preparation of his cases for trial.

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