Most car accident cases do not go to court. Many injured claimants resolve their cases through negotiations with the liable insurance company. However, a trial is sometimes necessary to pursue fair compensation and hold the at-fault party accountable. When this occurs, the injured party can hire a car accident lawyer to handle the lawsuit, discovery, pretrial preparations, and trial proceedings.
If you suffered injuries in a crash, discussing your options for seeking compensation with a collision attorney near you is a good idea. Most provide free initial consultations where their staff assesses the case, explains your options, and answers questions about their services and costs.
How Do Most Collision Victims Recover Compensation?
Victims can generally recover compensation by settling an insurance claim or taking the case to trial. As noted, most negotiate a settlement with the insurance company to wrap up their case. This is the most common way to get money to cover medical bills and other expenses following a crash.
Many times, the involved parties would rather avoid going to trial when it is in their best interests. Preparing and going to trial is time-consuming and expensive. It is often stressful for victims, too. To this end, there are ways to help reach a settlement beyond negotiations. These options include:
Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution tool used to resolve cases before they go to trial. Unlike mediation, many arbitration agreements are binding. This means the arbitrator’s decision decides the case.
In arbitration, a third-party arbitrator often a retired judge or experienced attorney hears the case’s facts and determines the outcome. This works much the same way as a trial, except there are fewer rules and no jury.
There are pros and cons to binding arbitration. Your attorney can discuss these with you if it becomes necessary in your case.
Mediation before a trial is common. Some civil courts require the parties to attend mediation before they put a trial date on the docket. Mediation features a trained mediator who attempts to help the parties reach an agreement. They cannot force this to happen, and the outcome of mediation is not binding. However, it is often effective at helping the parties find common ground and settle the case before trial.
When neither arbitration nor mediation works, going to trial might be necessary.
This process involves:
- Filing the lawsuit: Filing the initial paperwork to begin a lawsuit is the first step. The plaintiff (in this case, the crash victim) files the documents. The at-fault driver is usually the defendant. They have a short period to respond to the allegations after receiving notice of the lawsuit.
- Discovery: Discovery is when both parties investigate what happened, gather evidence, and ask questions of one another. How long this step takes depends on many factors.
- Pretrial motions: Pretrial motions often occur concurrently with discovery. One or both sides might need to ask the court to take certain actions pertaining to the case.
- Preparing for trial: Selecting the jury and other preparations for trial could take several weeks. Some court dockets are full, meaning that you could have a generous period to prepare for trial.
- Trial: Once the trial begins, it could take a few hours to several days. Many factors affect how long a trial takes, including the court’s schedule and the complexity of the case.
During the trial, the jury or judge will hear the case’s facts from each side, listen to witness testimony, look at the evidence, and decide who is liable for the crash. At the end, they will issue a verdict. If they side with the plaintiff, they could award compensation.
How Do I Seek Compensation After a Crash?
Some states require injured claimants to turn to their no-fault insurance first. Others allow victims to pursue fault-based claims and lawsuits. A car accident lawyer can tell you the best way to seek compensation.
In general, some of the options for pursuing compensation following a traffic collision include:
Fault-Based Crash Cases
The most common way crash victims in the United States recover compensation is through fault-based cases. Most states use fault-based auto insurance laws to ensure victims have an option for seeking money for damages after a crash.
This generally allows them to:
- File an auto liability insurance claim and negotiate a fair settlement
- File a personal injury lawsuit and ask the court to award fair compensation
In many cases, an attorney pursues these options concurrently. This means they file the claim and negotiate with the insurer while also building the case for trial and moving it forward through the civil court system. This allows them to continue to trial if there is no fair settlement offer by the time the trial date arrives.
No-Fault Insurance and Collision Claims
Some states require no-fault auto insurance, sometimes called a personal injury protection (PIP) policy. The laws requiring this insurance vary from state to state. In general, these policies provide the most straightforward way to recover basic expenses and losses, such as medical bills and a portion of lost income.
PIP policies do not pay beyond the liable policy’s limits or cover pain and suffering. This makes them ineffective for claimants with more significant injuries. That’s why many no-fault states allow injured claimants to seek compensation beyond their insurance policies if they meet certain requirements. One of these requirements means having serious injuries.
Depending on the state, serious might include severe conditions, lasting injuries, or medical bills that exceed the PIP’s policy limits.
What to Know About Hit and Runs and Uninsured Motorist Claims?
Many victims are unsure what to do when an uninsured motorist causes a crash. This is especially true in states with fault-based systems. If the driver does not have insurance or leaves the crash scene, there is no way to file a fault-based insurance claim.
When this occurs, the best option might be to seek damages through your uninsured motorist coverage. This policy is mandatory in many states and available as an option in others. Many states require you to opt out in writing, meaning you might have the coverage and not realize it.
This policy should match the amounts in your auto liability policy. A law firm or your insurer will review this policy with you to determine your coverage. An attorney could help you document your damages and file the claim, too.
What Makes Recovering Damages so Important?
Traffic collisions can cause significant financial consequences for victims. Not only are the medical bills and related expenses very high, the bills often arrive while the victim is still out of work and not getting an income. Even worse, there could be out-of-pocket expenses they must pay to ensure they have the care and support they need.
Expenses could include:
- Parking at the hospital or a doctor’s office
- Traveling to specialists in another city
- Purchasing necessary equipment or supplies
- Renovating their home for mobility purposes, such as building a wheelchair ramp
- Hiring someone to supervise minor children or complete tasks around the house
- Outfitting a vehicle with handicap-accessible modifications
The expenses associated with a traffic collision continue to occur throughout treatment. In some cases, victims need ongoing care or future treatment that costs a lot of money, too. Claims with lasting injuries that require ongoing support and care are often among the most expensive to manage. At the same time, it is often difficult or impossible for these crash victims to return to work.
Victims should not have to pay for these expenses and losses. They had no part in causing the crash, so asking them to pay for the injuries that resulted does not make sense. This is where insurance or a personal injury lawsuit could come in. The at-fault motorist should pay for the costs associated with a serious injury, not the victim.
Compensation Following a Car Accident Could Include Past and Future Expenses
Most states allow victims of serious injuries to sue the at-fault driver and hold them financially accountable. These cases seek compensation for the damages the victim suffered, either through an insurance settlement or court award.
Recoverable damages depend on a case’s facts but often include:
- Medical bills, current and future
- Related care and support costs, including ongoing and future expenses
- Lost income or job-related revenue
- Reduced earning capacity for long-term injuries
- Miscellaneous expenses
- Pain and suffering and other non-economic damages
If the victim passes away from their injuries or complications, a wrongful death lawsuit might be possible. In these cases, the person’s representative or an immediate family member sues on behalf of their closest loved ones. The recoverable damages depend on the applicable laws but generally include income losses, funeral and burial expenses, and other costs.
How an Attorney Can Help With Your Car Accident Case?
When you work with an attorney familiar with your local car accident laws, you ensure that you have a knowledgeable, experienced advocate on your side throughout the process. From the first day representing you, they can protect your rights and fight for your best interests. They can manage all communications about the case, preventing the insurer from using tactics or tricks that could reduce your settlement.
Lawyers know how to develop strong support for claims and lawsuits, investigating what happened and gathering essential evidence.
The law firm you hire must show:
- The accused party acted negligently.
- Their negligence caused the crash.
- You suffered injuries as a result.
- You have injury-related expenses and losses.
Using convincing evidence, the attorney will show the insurer, judge, jury, or other key parties what happened and why you deserve fair compensation. They will also present documentation to show the costs of the crash. This allows everyone involved to understand what a fair settlement or payout should look like.
Time Limits for Suing an At-Fault Driver
Each state sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit, called the “statute of limitations.” These deadlines are not set in stone but could prevent you from suing if you miss one. You must know how these timelines work and decide if you need to sue before the deadline arrives when possible. An attorney can help you navigate this process.
Sometimes, these deadlines are the reason why a victim will sue. The attorney will file the lawsuit and the insurance claim concurrently, seeking a positive outcome in one or the other. This ensures they start the lawsuit before the deadline but will still continue their negotiations with the insurer throughout the process.
How Long You Have to File Your Case Depends on Many Details?
Most states have deadlines for collision lawsuits that are one to four years following the crash date. Some offer less time for wrongful death cases.
For example, in New York, you generally only have three years to file a lawsuit. Exceptions might shorten the time you have. For instance, there is less time to sue for a wrongful death case. In New York, the law usually only gives you two years to file. Municipal cases can be even shorter, requiring you to take action within 90 days. Your lawyer might opt to sue while still negotiating with the insurer to meet this deadline and move the case forward.
Working With an Attorney Could Help You Recover Fair Compensation
If you were hurt in a traffic collision, you should consider contacting a personal injury law firm in Long Island as soon as possible to learn about your options. Many cases do not require a lawsuit, and even fewer go to trial. Most victims recover compensation through negotiated insurance settlements. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side is a good way to protect your rights and get the money you need.
The sooner you call, the sooner your personal injury lawyer in Long Island can build a case and seek fair compensation based on your case’s details.