How to Initiate a Car Accident Lawsuit
When you get into a car accident, it is typical for the case to be resolved by an insurance provider via an insurance claim.
This is often the best and quickest way to get a settlement or compensation. However, when this does not happen, you may need to file a car accident lawsuit.
To recover more than is allowed in a small claims court, you will need to file a case in a civil court by initiating the pre-trial process through a personal injury lawyer.
In this article, we will look at how you can get this process started and what to expect once the lawsuit has been filed.
Filing a Complaint
The first step in a civil car accident lawsuit starts with a complaint. This is a formal document that explains all elements of the case you are making against the person who caused the accident.
In the complaint, you need to identify the responsible party (the person or entity you are suing), the facts of your claim, and the supporting elements of the case.
A plaintiff may bring more than one claim in a lawsuit, with each of these claims called a ‘cause of action’.
In many cases, these causes of action are divided into pain, suffering and negligence, and infliction of emotional distress. In the complaint, you might also be required to ask for an amount of compensation.
Because it can be difficult to know what amount to ask for, it is always a good idea to involve a lawyer at this stage of the car accident lawsuit, and preferably a personal injury lawyer.
Process and Service
Once the complaint is filed, a court clerk will create a court file and then the papers will be presented to the defendant.
These are often called process papers and often include a summons to the court for the defendant to appear at the court within a given timeframe.
This process is then delivered to the defendant. Because each state has different service procedures, do get in touch with a lawyer to help you know how to serve the court papers properly.
The Defendant Answers
Once the complaint is served, the defendant has to provide a response, usually called an ‘Answer’.
In their response, the defendant must respond to specific allegations, laying out their defense.
Many plaintiffs are surprised to receive an answer that contains defenses and justifications that have nothing to do with the circumstances of a particular lawsuit.
Defendants and their lawyers will provide as many defenses as they can, no matter how irrelevant or ridiculous, because any defenses not laid out in the answer are not considered during the course of the lawsuit.
These are the initial steps for filing a car accident lawsuit.
The next steps after this are the discovery phase (exchange of information), depositions, and informal settlement negotiations.
If you filed a strong case, it is not unusual for your case to be resolved before you get a chance to go before a judge. This is often the best outcome as it saves a lot of time, effort, and money.