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Stages of a Car Accident Injuries Lawsuit
If youve been in a car accident, injuries and damages to your car may have you thinking about whether you should sue the other driver. If, in talking to your insurance agent and a lawyer, you are convinced you should, then you ought to learn about the sometimes long path you are about to tread.
Before you sue, youll need to know what remedies the insurance company for the other driver can offer you. If the other drivers policy limits do not adequately compensate you for medical expenses and car repairs, youll need to confirm with your insurance agent whether you have under-insured motorist coverage to make up the shortfalls in the other drivers insurance. Even if you do, you still have a potential lawsuit if your losses are higher than what your under-insured motorist coverage can pay.
If you live in a no-fault state, you may only sue under limited conditions. Talk to your attorney and insurance agent to find out if you meet these conditions. For example, in some states, you can sue if your medical expenses, loss of income, and car damages exceed a certain amount, say $50,000.
Whether you are in a fault state or a no-fault state, insurance companies rarely cover non-economic losses, which include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of spousal companionship
If you wish to recover for these kinds of losses, a lawsuit is the best recourse. Make sure you discuss all of your options with your car accident lawyer.
Filing the Car Accident Injuries Lawsuit
Lawsuits seeking compensation for car accident injuries are civil lawsuits, also known as personal injury, or tort cases. Civil lawsuits generally follow a similar path toward conclusion. They start with the filing of a complaint, or petition, with the local court.
Many states limit the time in which you can file a lawsuit, so youll need to check with your auto accident attorney and make sure your suit is filed before the statute of limitations is up. For example, if your state requires you to file within two years of the date of the injury, then you have two years from the date of the car accident to have your lawyer file the case.
Your complaint will set out the allegations that make you, the plaintiff, entitled to money from the other driver, the defendant. It will also state what relief is sought and sometimes identifies the legal theory under which you plan to prove your case.
The other driver and his insurance company, which is likely paying for his or her defense, has a set amount of time in which to respond to your lawsuit. The response may include an answer — in which the defendant either admits or denies the allegations. It may also include counterclaims, which show how you contributed to the car accident and are responsible for your own injuries. And it may include cross-claims, which seek to blame the accident on another defendant if there is one.
Like your original complaint, you will have a set period to respond to the defendants counterclaims.
There a number of motions the defendant can make that may affect your case, including:
- Motion for change of venue – which, if successful, will move your case to a different courthouse
- Motion for a change of judge – which will get your case moved to a new courtroom
- Motion for removal – which will move your case from state court to federal court (the motion needs to show that the case either involves federal law or that the defendant is from a different state)
- Motion to dismiss – which does not necessarily dispute the facts of the case but may argue the suit was brought in an untimely manner or that no relief is warranted
In all but the last motion, the case still continues even if the motion is granted. Such motions are public and are generally ruled upon without a hearing.
If you survive the motion to dismiss, the judge will then set a date for trial. Personal injury cases are usually placed behind other civil cases, such as landlord disputes, so do not be surprised if your trial date is a year or more in the future.
The judge at this time might order you into mediation. In mediation, you and your car accident attorneys meet with the defendant and his or her attorneys for talks moderated by a neutral third-party mediator. The mediator guides the conversation and tries to bring about agreement between the parties.