How Does a Car Accident Lawsuit Work?
Thousands of car accident claims are filed in San Antonio every year. Depending on your case, claims can be handled very quickly with a car accident settlement or they can be more time consuming. In some cases, it is necessary file a car accident lawsuit in a San Antonio court. Because the legal process can be confusing, here is a brief overview of the timeline for a typical car accident lawsuit that actually ends up in court (few actually do):
- Free initial consultation. This consists of the first meeting between a qualified personal injury attorney and the injured party. Usually, after assessing the strength of your case and completing any medical treatment, lawyers and insurance adjusters attempt to settle your auto accident claim. If no settlement can be reached, your case may warrant the filing of a lawsuit.
- Filing of the lawsuit. This involves your attorney assembling the necessary paperwork and filing the documents with the proper court in the right jurisdiction (such as Bexar County). The suit outlines your case and names the defendant(s), who receives a summons from the court.
- Preliminary motions. After the defendant files a response, the two sides meet to discuss what are known as preliminary motions. These include motions to change the venue, judge, or jurisdiction in the case. They must be decided by a judge who will then set a trial date.
- Mediation or settlement talks. Usually, the plaintiff and defendant engage in informal settlement talks in an effort to reach an agreement without going to trial. Sometimes, a judge will order the two sides into mediation, which consist of formalized or structured settlement talks. It’s important to note that settlement talks can occur at any time during the auto accident lawsuit.
- Discovery. This is the phase of the lawsuit where both sides gather evidence and documentation surrounding the accident and its aftermath. During discovery, the plaintiff is generally required to answer questionnaires and/or submit to a deposition, which is where defense lawyers can ask direct questions of the plaintiff (but not in a courtroom).
- Pretrial motions. These motions focus on different issues than were discussed as part of the preliminary motions. Pretrial motions center around the admissibility of evidence, certification of expert witnesses, and other components of a case that are to be presented at trial.
- Jury selection. On the date of the trial, plaintiff and defense attorneys will choose a jury who will ultimately decide the case. Sometimes, this step is omitted if the judge will issue the verdict.
- Trial. This is the phase with which people are most familiar. Both lawyers give opening statements, witnesses give testimony and are cross-examined, evidence is presented. Then the jury hears closing statements from the attorneys and juror instructions by the judge before retiring to deliberate and reach a verdict.
- Verdict. This is the decision reached by a judge or jury. Many times, the negligent driver is ordered to pay money to the plaintiff.
- Appeals. If either side is dissatisfied with the verdict, they can try to appeal it to a higher court. If the appeal is granted (and there must be a good reason for this to occur), then the trial court proceedings are reviewed by a higher court.
It is not uncommon for an auto accident attorney to reach settlement with the insurance company before a car accident lawsuit is filed. In many cases, attorneys can acquire substantially greater amounts than the insurance company will offer the injured driver directly. Therefore, it is important to seek representation from an experienced accident attorney at the very begging of the claim process.
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If you or a loved one has been hurt or killed in a car or truck accident in San Antonio, contact our office for a free, initial consultation.