Car accidents are often one of the most traumatic events in a person’s life. Victims could lose thousands of dollars in the value of their car and be scarred by injuries for the rest of their lives. Those who suffer through car accidents may be shaken and confused. They may want to focus solely on recovery and not have to worry about the myriad of legal options available to them. But one of the keys to receiving just compensation after a car accident is to act quickly and responsibly. Here are the steps to a car accident injuries lawsuit and what the victim needs to know.
The first step to any lawsuit is to actually file the lawsuit. This filing cannot happen at any time, however. The statute of limitations is different for lawsuits in different states, and it spells out the parameters of lawsuits and when a lawsuit must be filed. If a victim delays and the statute of limitations expires, he or she cannot file a lawsuit under any circumstances. The filing consists of the plaintiff, the charges, the defendant who is being sued, and the legal theory that underpins the lawsuit.
Next, there are a series of preliminary motions. These motions often involve changes to the case like a change of venue or judge. The motions may occur due to either the defendant or the plaintiff being fearful that they will not receive a fair trial in certain places. Many changes at this stage may help a person’s case. The one that would not help, however, is a motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss suggests that a case is frivolous or unwarranted. If a judge allows a motion to dismiss, a person’s lawsuit will end and they will receive no damages. The plaintiff must have a legally sound, well-crafted suit in order to keep their suit beyond this stage.
After the preliminary motions, there is the pre-trial phase. Attorneys from both sides often meet and attempt to work out a legal settlement. They may undergo mediation by order of the judge. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the case will proceed to discovery, where both sides collect evidence and take depositions of the individuals involved in the case. Each side requests many documents from everyone involved. It is a key step in the legal process since many people often do not want to engage in discovery on every possible topic. Discovery can expose personal information and force a person to answer uncomfortable questions under oath.
Attorneys will negotiate for the terms of discovery at this stage. They can also push for a motion of summary judgment. This declaration from a judge involves the judge making a ruling before going through the full process of a trial. The discovery stage is so important that many cases end during this time. “The time before a trial is ten times more pivotal than the trial itself. It is the period when the trial’s outcome, in most cases, is determined,” says auto accident attorney Victor Dante.
Finally, there is the trial itself. It is the culmination of months or even years of hard work from attorneys and plaintiffs. While the trial is of course dramatic, do not pretend that this is the only part of your lawsuit that matters. Every stage of a lawsuit is a stage where a suit can be won or lost. Car accident victims need to be familiar with these stages and the steps they need to take in order to keep their case viable and eventually receive the damages they deserve.