Car accidents can cause devastating injuries and severe property damage. Accident victims deserve compensation for their damages. While many people think that pursuing a personal injury claim after a car accident involves going to court, the reality is that the vast majority of cases never see the inside of a courtroom.
So if you avoid reaching out to a personal injury lawyer after a car accident because you don’t want to end up in court, the chances of this happening are slim. Even if the insurance company doesn’t offer you full and fair compensation for your injuries outside of court, you get the final say in whether you want your case to go to court. If you decide to pursue litigation, your attorney will be there with you immediately, reassuring you and letting you know what to expect.
How Many Car Accident Cases Go to Court?
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common type of personal injury in the United States. According to the Department of Justice information, personal injury cases account for about 10 percent of all civil case filings. Only about three percent of civil cases, including those arising from motor vehicle accidents, go to trial.
Why do only a small percentage go to trial? The short answer is that it’s beneficial for both the injured party, also known as the plaintiff or claimant and the at-fault party, also known as the defendant.
Whenever possible, both parties attempt to avoid going to court because settling outside of court:
- Saves money. Litigating a case costs more money.
- Saves time. Cases that settle typically resolve sooner than those that go to trial
- Provides more control over the outcome for both parties. Not leaving the outcome of the case up to a judge or jury gives the injured and at-fault party more control over the resolution of the claim
- Protects reputations. The insurance company or the at-fault party can protect their reputation by avoiding trial; this is especially true for high-profile cases.
- Lets the injured party gets on with their life. Going to trial can be stressful and, in some cases, may delay the victim from healing physically and emotionally after an accident
- Courts like it when cases settle before trial as it keeps the court system from being burdened by unnecessary cases.
What Are Damages?
Damages are the losses, inconveniences, setbacks, and other harmful effects the car accident has had on your life.
Economic damages (also known as special damages) include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages and income
- Property damage
Non-economic damages (also known as general damages) include:
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Economic damages have a predetermined value, whereas non-economic damages are subjective and can be more challenging to calculate and agree on their value. Still, you deserve compensation for both damage types after a car accident.
Often, the insurance company will use a multiplier to determine the value of your non-economic damages. The more severe or debilitating your injuries, the higher the multiplier they may use, and therefore, the more compensation you might receive. For example, someone with a spinal cord injury (SCI) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) will receive more compensation than someone with a broken arm and a bruised head.
How Can You Avoid Taking Your Case to Trial?
Some motor vehicle accident cases will inevitably end up at trial. However, most don't need to. To ensure your case only ends up at trial if necessary, hire the right car accident attorney. You want an attorney with excellent negotiation skills and an experienced litigator.
A well-versed attorney will know the strong points of your case and use them to your advantage when negotiating a settlement. They will also be fully aware of the weaknesses of the at-fault party’s case and use them accordingly.
You also need to hire a lawyer you can trust.
Your lawyer will know the general value of your case based on:
- Recent similar cases in your area
- The value of your general and special damages
- The insurance companies and coverage involved
- The strengths and weaknesses of your case
- The strengths and weaknesses of the at-fault party’s case
- The attorneys for the at-fault party
- Their own experiences
While you are under no obligation to agree to any settlement offer you receive, it’s usually in your best interest to follow the advice of your attorney.
Reasons Why You Might Want to Go to Trial
Keep in mind that all insurance companies involved are always looking to pay the least amount of compensation possible. Suppose you or your car accident attorney feel that the other party isn’t offering you a full and fair settlement, or you suspect the insurance company is acting in bad faith. In that case, the claim will frequently go to trial.
Two common reasons a car accident claim might go to court are:
- You and the insurance carrier can’t reasonably agree on who is liable for causing the accident
- Neither of you is satisfied with the proposed settlement compensation; in other words, you can’t agree on how much you deserve for your damages
For example, the other party’s insurance carrier might purport that you are at fault for the accident when you and your attorney know otherwise. Since only one party can be correct, a court trial will ultimately determine who is ultimately legally at fault. Lawsuits can often be extremely taxing and stressful, so having a car accident lawyer on your side is essential to help you in every step of the process.
If the parties can’t agree on who is at fault, your attorney will present all relevant evidence at trial to prove your case. You will likely be entitled to more compensation if you win at trial. However, there is also a chance that the court might rule against you, causing you to receive little or no compensation. This difference is why going to court can be risky, and you may receive more compensation from a settlement than going to court.
The second most common reason a car accident case goes to court is because you and the insurance company may disagree on the proposed compensation. For example, if another driver collides with your car and it’s not your fault, their insurance company might want to compensate you $5,000 for a vehicle worth $50,000. In that case, you likely won’t want to settle, and your attorney will advise you to litigate your claim in court. Quite commonly, insurance holders and insurance companies disagree on fair compensation.
Remember that the trial process is financially straining and time-intensive for everyone involved, and you should avoid it when possible. One benefit of having experienced legal counsel during the insurance claim process is that insurance companies and their attorneys are typically much more likely to negotiate a fair settlement before the case goes to trial. They take claimants with attorney representation more seriously than those without.
Taking Your Car Accident Case to Court
Not many car accident claims need to end up in court, but some need to go to trial to obtain fair compensation. Going to trial is an incredibly overwhelming process, but having the legal experience of a seasoned lawyer on your side can significantly increase the odds of success.
Here’s what you can expect if taking your case to court:
In most states, a jury, not a judge, determines the verdict in a civil trial such as a car accident case. The parties randomly select jurors to decrease the chance of any potential biases. The process involves lawyers for each side asking each potential jury member various questions to assess whether they are fit to be a juror in the case.
For example, if the driver who hit you was drinking and driving, a juror whose family member suffered fatal injuries in a drunk driving accident will most likely be removed from the jury. The legal system promotes a fair trial through the jury selection process.
Setting a Trial Date
Once jury selection is complete, the court will set a trial date. Your legal team will likely have already done the heavy lifting of investigating the accident, deposing witnesses, and hiring expert witnesses if necessary through the claim and negotiation process. They will finalize anything else that needs to be done in preparation for trial, collecting any information that will help them present your case as powerfully as possible.
At the beginning of the formal trial, each side's attorneys will establish their argument as to why they are in the right. If the at-fault party's insurance company claims you don't deserve compensation because their client didn't cause the accident, your attorney will need proof to back your claim up.
Your Attorney Presents Your Case
Usually, after the opening statements, your car accident attorney will present your case to the jury, explaining why you are correct concerning your claim. They will share the evidence as to why that’s the case. Your attorney will ensure that your claim is robust and accurate, giving you the best chance to win your case. As the filing party, your attorney typically presents your case to the court before the other party.
When presenting your side, your attorney will rely on:
- Witness testimony
- Medical professionals
- Many other people and pieces of evidence
The Other Side Presents Their Case
After you present your case, the other party, or likely their attorney on their behalf or behalf of their insurance company, will have a turn to share their version of the events. They will also call witnesses to testify on the stand like bystanders, doctors, and other experts to help argue their case.
Once both parties present their case, they will each have the opportunity to give closing arguments. This procedure involves both sides providing a summary of the case and encouraging the jury to consider the evidence in a specific way that benefits them the most. It’s the last chance each side gets to convince the jury of their position.
After closing arguments, the jury will go to another room to deliberate and decide on a verdict. Depending on the type of case and the amount and complexity of the evidence, deliberation may take only a few hours to several days. The jury will need to decide if the other party is at-fault for your accident and, if so, how much compensation they should give you for your damages.
After completing their deliberations, the jury will give the verdict to the judge, who then communicates their conclusion to both sides. If the jury sides with you, you will be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
Some trials only take a few days from start to finish, and others can take a week or two. The more evidence and witnesses each side has to call, the longer it will take. Sometimes, car accident claims can settle even after reaching the trial stage. If this happens, the trial will halt, as it’s no longer necessary.
You can settle a car accident claim throughout any point of a case, so just because your case heads to litigation does not mean you will need to go to court or have a jury verdict.
Call an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Today
If you are serious about receiving full and fair compensation for your damages in your insurance claim, call a seasoned car accident attorney to represent you. They can work with you on your case, negotiate a settlement, and prepare for your insurance claim trial if one becomes necessary.
Contacting an experienced car accident attorney can fight through the frustrations and sometimes intimidations in the process it’s their job. The best ones are committed to giving you the best chance at winning your case and receiving the compensation you deserve.