Stages of a Car Accident Lawsuit
It is natural to feel overwhelmed after a car accident, but you should always remain prepared to press for an adequate settlement.
In the hours and days after being injured in a car accident that someone else caused, you will likely be experiencing a variety of overwhelming concerns and worries about how you are going to be able to move forward from this frustrating situation. How will you be able to keep your income steady while recovering? How long will you be incapacitated? Who is going to cover all of the costs that keep popping up? Most likely, you will be filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance company as soon as possible, at which point you will have a claims adjuster assigned to your case.
The insurance adjuster will spend the next days or weeks investigating your case and ultimately determining how much the insurance company will offer you for a settlement. More often than not, the offer that an insurance company ultimately makes to a victim of an accident is a pittance compared to the amount that the victim rightfully deserves. The insurance adjuster spends their time investigating every possible reason to reduce your settlement amount, which is why you should have your own support. Consider how one-sided this investigation process can be—there is someone working full-time on behalf of the insurance company to limit your settlement, and if you do not have help, then you will need to build your own counter-argument while you are trying to recover from your injuries.
The following is an overview of the steps you will go through after a car accident, with or without an attorney.
Filing Your Insurance Claim
The first step is to notify the relevant insurance companies about the accident. You will have collected the other driver’s insurance information at the scene of the accident (if the driver was not insured, then you will file a claim with your own insurance company), and will need to submit your claim within a set amount of time. Once you file your claim, the insurance company will initiate an investigation.
Working With a Claims Adjuster
Once the claims period is started, a claims adjuster will begin work on your case by investigating all relevant information. In many cases, you will need to attend an independent medical exam in order for the adjuster to verify the injuries that you are claiming to have suffered. Your attorney will likely advise that you get your own medical exam as close to the IME as possible in order to have another body of evidence to compare the “independent” doctor’s findings. Keep in mind that this doctor is contracted by the insurance company, so having an attorney guide you through the exam is a great way to ensure that you do not accidentally complicate your case.
Negotiating Your Settlement
Once the claims investigation is concluded, the insurance company will make an initial settlement offer. While insurance companies generally like to position this offer as the maximum amount, this is nowhere near true. You or your attorney will now begin a series of negotiations with the team representing the insurance company with the hopes of reaching an agreement about a settlement that actually makes sense for your case. Your negotiations will rely on extensive research into the economic and non-economic damage amounts that you and your attorney have calculated.
Settling, or Filing a Complaint
If you are able to reach an agreement, then you will be able to accept your settlement amount and close this stressful chapter of your life with the financial support you deserve. If not, then you or your attorney will need to file an official complaint in court which will initiate an official lawsuit. Once filed, you will need to go through a discovery phase, undergo a deposition and gather evidence from other involved parties through sworn testimonies, and then reapproach the negotiation table.
Preparing For Trial
Once the discovery phase is concluded, you will have another opportunity to negotiate with the new information that you have uncovered. If this negotiation fails, then you will need to begin to prepare for trial, where your case will be heard in front of a judge and/or jury, and the outcome of your lawsuit will be determined by someone other than you, your lawyer, and the team that you have been negotiating with up to this point.