The Car Accident Lawsuit Process in California
When you are injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to seek compensation for your injury. This compensation can cover your medical bills for current and future medical treatments, lost wages, and car damage. The car accident settlement process involves more than simply submitting a car accident claim to the at-fault party insurance company and receiving compensation to cover your losses.
The settlement process can involve an investigation of your car accident, followed by lengthy negotiations with the insurance company. If a car accident insurance settlement can’t be reached through negotiation, a lawsuit may be required. Below are the steps that go into the car accident lawsuit process and settlement in California.
Seek Medical Treatment
An important first step in a car accident settlement claim is to seek medical treatment, even if you don’t feel you’re physically injured. A diagnosis by a doctor helps create a medical record, and this can be helpful in the future when processing a claim or lawsuit for your losses. While undergoing treatment for your injuries, you can begin the process of looking for an experienced car accident lawyer.
A lawyer can help protect your rights and advise you on the right way to move forward with your claim. California has a 2-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases, meaning you have at most two years from the date of your car accident to file a lawsuit. However, there are some exceptions. For instance, the statute can begin at a later time if victims did not learn of their injuries till some time after the accident. Conversely, the statute can begin sooner if the suit is brought forth against the government. There is always an exception, which is why it’s vital to work with an experienced attorney who is familiar with these exceptions.
Gathering Evidence and Conducting Investigation
If your car accident case moves forward, your lawyer will begin the process of gathering evidence and investigating your accident. This often involves collecting and analyzing medical records, police reports, witness statements, and other vital evidence. In some cases, your lawyer may even hire an accident reconstruction expert to help with reconstructing the scene of the accident in order to determine the cause of the accident and who is responsible.
At the same time, your lawyer will start performing legal research on your unique case so as to build the strongest possible argument as to why the other party is responsible and why you are entitled to the maximum amount of compensation for your damages.
Demand Letter and Settlement Negotiations
Using the information gathered during the investigation, your lawyer will then draft a demand letter to the insurance company of the at-fault driver. Sending a demand letter usually prompts the negotiation process with the other party’s insurance adjuster.
Generally, the demand letter includes the following information:
- Details of the car accident
- How the other driver causes the car accident
- The seriousness of your injuries, medical care needed, and prognosis
- The type of compensation demanded
- The amount of settlement the victim deserves
Upon receipt, the insurance company then usually submits a counteroffer. However, if the insurance company fails to pay you a fair settlement, your car accident attorney can prepare for litigation.
When negotiations are not agreed upon, your personal injury lawyer will file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. A car accident lawyer knows that the statute of limitations for a car accident lawsuit in California is two years, starting from the date of the accident. The timeline of the actual car accident lawsuit starts with the filing, and once this happens, your attorney has a specific amount of time to serve the at-fault party (defendant). And once the lawsuit is filed, they have 30 days to answer the lawsuit.
This is the next step after filing a lawsuit. During discovery, both parties attempt to seek information from each other in order to undermine the position of the other or strengthen their position. Discovery takes many forms, which include interrogatories, requests for admissions, depositions, and medical examinations. The discovery process is long but important for discovering valuable information. In some situations, the information uncovered during this stage prompts settlement discussions because it reveals the weakness of the other party’s position.
Generally, settlement negotiations continue through the pre-trial phase. If both parties cannot reach an agreement, then the judge in charge of the case may order medication in an attempt to resolve the dispute. During mediation, a 3rd party (usually an experienced lawyer or retired judge) reviews the case and hears both sides’ arguments. The mediator then tries to help them reach a settlement.
Take the Case to Trial
Although typically most car accident lawsuits settle out of court, there may be times when both parties can’t reach an agreement to which the car accident case will go to trial. During the trial, each party’s lawyer presents their case to either the judge or jury by presenting evidence, experts, and witnesses. After the back and forth, both parties will present a closing argument, where they urge the judge or jury to find the case in their favor. If you do win at trial, you’ll be awarded compensation which will be disbursed to you, usually within 30 days of a verdict.
Heritage Accident Lawyers: The Top Car Accident Attorneys
Were you or a family member hurt in a car accident in Cerritos, CA? Call our office to schedule a free consultation to learn how our personal injury attorneys can file your personal injury claim and negotiate the best car accident settlement for your case. Contact us today to get started.