If you have been involved in a car accident and your insurance company or that of another driver did not resolve the case quickly you may need to file a lawsuit. If you would like your settlement to be more than your state’s small claims court limit you will need to start a pre-trial process. Your case will need to be filed in a civil court, and you’ll probably need to hire a personal injury lawyer to help you.
Starting Your Case
– Filing the Initial Document
You will be required to file an initial document that’s known as a ‘Complaint’. This document includes everything about the case that you’re making, and who you’re making it against. In the Complaint, you will identify everyone who is involved and state all of the facts that are the basis of your allegations. You will then lay out and explain each element in your claim. Every claim that you make will be known as a ‘Cause of action’, and you may wish to bring about different causes of action as a result of the other driver’s negligence, and for any pain and suffering you have experienced as a result of the accident.
In your Complaint, you will also need to specify a sum of money that you would like to receive as compensation for all the damages.
– The Filing Fee
Courts and states expect you to pay a filing fee, which can be less than $100, or more than $300. If you win your claim the defendant will need to reimburse you for the filing fee.
– Process and Service
Once your case has been created by the court clerk they will process the papers. These are the papers that will be served to the defendant. The defendant will receive a copy of your Complaint along with the Summons, and the defendant will need to answer your case before the deadline. The deadline is typically one month after the date you filed your claim.
Every state has its rules and its procedures for how the process should be served. A Constable or a local Deputy Sheriff or the Sheriff serve the papers to the defendant. There may be a small fee for this, but if you win your case the defendant will need to reimburse you.
The Defendant’s Answer
Once the defendant has been served they will have to file a response, which is also known as an ‘Answer’. The Answer contains information about the defendant’s legal defenses as part of their response to your allegations. It is not uncommon for Answers to be ridiculous and be completely unconnected to your claim. If there are defenses that are not included in the defendant’s Answer, they will be waived. This is why defense lawyers usually mention every single defense that springs to mind, even if they do not seem connected to your case.
The Pretrial Procedures
As soon as all the relevant documents have been filed in a car accident lawsuit, the case will move to the discovery phase. In the discovery phase, both sides will exchange a lot of information. Some of the information will involve questions and answers as part of the ‘Interrogatories’ section. Other parts will involve providing answers under oath as part of the ‘Depositions’ section. There will also be requests made for medical records as they should detail the injuries you sustained in the accident.
Any informal settlement negotiations that take place during the lawsuit could result in your case being resolve at any moment, which could be good news for you. However, this depends on how complicated your case is, and if you have sufficient evidence to support your arguments.
If you are currently suffering from a personal injury and are unable to read ‘Starting a Car Accident Lawsuit’ please watch our Injury Pedia video so you can gain the Personal Injury Information and Answers you are seeking.