If you or someone you know was involved in a car accident and is facing a possible lawsuit against him or her, then it is imperative to know beforehand how this matter could turn out if it reaches court, and what happens when you lose a car accident lawsuit. Although it is usually in the best interest of all the parties involved to avoid taking the matter to court, sometimes, due to differences in opinion, filing a lawsuit might appear more reasonable than other quicker and smoother ways of reaching a settlement. Let’s take a look at a couple of factors that tilt the balance towards going for a lawsuit.
When you and the insurance company can’t decide if you were responsible for the accident
When you reach out to the other party’s insurance company to claim compensation for the damages you suffered in the accident, they may point out that your negligence was mainly responsible for the accident and deny you a substantial compensation on the same basis. In this case, if you strongly believe that you were not at fault, you can file a lawsuit against them to present facts and witnesses in support of your claim for compensation.
When you and the insurance company can’t agree on a compensation amount
Insurance companies are difficult to deal with when you want them to cough up compensation. They mostly negotiate compensation amounts in a way that requires them to pay the least possible money within the legal framework. In the event that there is a disagreement on compensation or when you sense reluctance, on part of the insurance agency, to pay you a fair amount, it is a reasonable decision to file a case in court.
Once you’ve decided to take the matter to court and seek the help of law to produce a fair outcome, it becomes important to hire an experienced attorney with a good track record, especially in car accident lawsuits. Sometimes, having an attorney by your side while negotiating with an insurance company can itself secure relatively better compensation than by negotiating yourself. In any case, you will have to sit down with your lawyer and discuss all the evidence and witness statements that strengthen your side of the argument. The better prepared and well-versed you are with your arguments, the likelier you are to get a favorable verdict from the jury.
Anatomy Of A Court Trial
The sequence of legal procedure here begins with the appointment of a jury panel. The selection of jurors is done randomly to assemble an impartial jury. The jurors go through an interview process to check if they are the right choice to look over the case. For example, the jurors who have had no personal involvement in a similar incident or lawsuit are chosen for the jury, to avoid any bias or prejudice in the court rulings. As soon as the jury is finalized, the court issues a date for trial.
While you wait for the trial date to arrive, you need to work with your attorney to gather all the facts, evidence, and testimonials that support your angle. This is the most intense period of preparation that requires you to be thorough and meticulous while formulating each argument you want to present before the jury. Any important detail overlooked or misinterpreted can prove decisive, so it is advisable to make sure you aggregate everything that speaks in your favor.
The trial is kicked off with opening statements coming from the two opposing parties, each of them outlining their side of the argument. This is followed by the party which filed the lawsuit (plaintiff) presenting their case based on evidence and testimonials. The other party (defendant) presents its case right after. Next, each side gives a closing argument that summarizes their own viewpoint on the incident. After hearing both the parties, the jury undergoes a deliberation session before coming up with a final verdict.
If you win the lawsuit, you would become legally entitled to receive compensation as specified in the court order. But, what about when you lose? Even when have a strong case, a court victory isn’t guaranteed. That’s why it is wise to always be ready for facing the worst-case scenario. In case you do not get a favorable verdict and instead end up losing the court battle, this is what you can expect to happen next.
If you’re the plaintiff, you may have to take the compensation being offered
Even after hearing to both sides, if the jury thinks your argument falls short of proving your right to a bigger compensation amount, you would have to settle with the original compensation offered by the insurance company. This can happen when you are found to be partly responsible for the car accident.
If you’re the defendant, you may have to pay compensation
If the lawsuit was filed after your insurance company legally denied compensation to the plaintiff, and it is proven in court that there is the compensation owed by the defendant, then you would have to pay the money from your own pocket. The settlement is usually in cash unless some other form of payment is agreed to, in court, by both the parties.
In the case that you do not have enough cash to settle the amount owed, your assets can be seized and auctioned off by the sheriff. In case you have neither cash nor assets, any future income or an asset like salary will be garnished until the debt is paid off — only a portion of the salary is garnished and not all of it. The two parties can also agree to settle the debt in the form of installments which may or may not include interest on top. The payment to the plaintiff is conducted in a way that also allows you to sustain yourself simultaneously. It is important to note that, under the law, you can not be imprisoned for failing to pay off your debt.
Prevention is always better than cure — this applies in the context of a lawsuit as well. There are certain mistakes that can be avoided to prevent a legal defeat. Let’s take a look at them.
Handling the case all by yourself
If it wasn’t clear already, it is imperative to find a suitable car accident attorney with a good record as early in the build-up to the case as possible. Having, on your side, someone who knows the legal system like the back of his hand enables you to make the best use of laws applicable to your case. It also instils in you a firm sense of confidence and relieves you from going knee-deep into the intricacies of the legal system.
Giving false statements
The cardinal sin in a court is lying under oath. Although it might appear naturally enticing to twist facts and details of the accident in a way that suits your cause, it is ultimately a very big risk that can blow your case out of the water. In the scenario that your statement does not fall in line with the witnesses’ statements and you have no evidence to support it either, your lie would stand out from the truth in front of the jury. Not only would you be caught in a red-faced moment, but your lie would also have a lingering negative effect on your future statements. In other words, all that you say in court can significantly lose credibility because of your one lie.
Sharing details with the opposition
It is understandable to feel apologetic to the other party involved in the car accident, even when it wasn’t your fault. This is the intrinsic impulse for reconciliation people go through after a fight, a heated argument or, in this case, a car accident. But, it is important to not speak candidly under the influence of morality or emotions and to only speak facts whenever asked a question about the incident. Acknowledging it was your mistake, just for the sake of it, can be used by the opposite party as a testimony that supports their argument in court. It is especially important to resist talking to the opposition’s attorney as he might trick you into revealing details that jeopardise your stand. It is wise to take suggestions from your attorney about what to speak when questioned regarding the car accident and what to avoid talking about. It must be stressed that each word you utter in public or to the authorities or to the opposition, without thinking of the consequences, can prove instrumental in how the case plays out in court.
Not going to a doctor for treating injuries suffered
If you are claiming personal injury in your lawsuit, you must make it a priority to visit the doctor and get the reports of all the injuries inflicted by the accident. No matter how obvious the bodily injury might seem, nothing is quite as trustworthy as a doctor’s diagnosis report. It is important to procure these documents as soon as possible so that they can be used as evidence in your court trial right from the onset. Official medical documentation which mentions the severity of the injury and gives an idea of the cost of treatment adds invaluable weight to your overall argument for compensation.
Talking about the incident on the internet
Do not over-share on social media or anywhere on the internet — it is a unique precaution of the 21st century, and one that could very easily make or break a case. It is not at all advised to talk about the accident, express your frustration with the insurance companies, swear about or threaten the opposition, or the like on online public platforms. The things you post online can be cleverly used by others to weaken your case significantly and gain an upper hand in the court rulings. For instance, you might spontaneously post a threat to the other driver involved without thinking much about it, only for this to be used by the opposing attorney to accuse you of issuing personal threats to his client. Another impulsive action to avoid is going all out against the insurance company that denied you compensation, bitterly criticizing them, and writing how you would extract your money out of their pockets, which seems controversial enough to leave a bad impression on the jury if brought up during the trial.
Not gathering photographic evidence
Photographic evidence of the car accident can give you a significant edge over your opposition in the court. Although it is obviously an ordeal to capture photos and videos after being in an accident, the sheer value of media depicting the accident exactly how it happened is not lost. Make sure that when you capture the damages sustained by your car and your own injuries, the images are not blurred or shaky and the objects in the image are fairly recognizable and clear. The level of severity of the accident can be precisely shown by photos and videos, which can also be used as a strong base for your compensation claim.
Car accident and personal injury lawsuits involve legal procedures that are complicated and exhausting for the common man, to say the least. There is a lot of important paperwork involved which needs to be submitted before the deadline. These documents might include tricky clauses that need to be read and understood properly before they are signed, lest they become an obstacle for you as the lawsuit progresses. Also, the insurance companies are generally inclined to give as little compensation as possible under the law, making it all the more troublesome to get a good compensation for your damages. However, you need not be put off by these challenges as with a little assistance from our lawyer, you can conveniently glide past them. The road to victory in any legal battle is hard and arduous, but with the right strategy and under an experienced lawyer’s supervision, your chances of success increase tremendously.
If you are looking for an attorney in Oakland to handle your car accident lawsuit, contact Quirk Reed LLP here.