Car accident cases are not always straightforward. However, most of these types of cases don't get to trial for several reasons. Accident cases can be stressful for all involved. If you're the prosecuting party, you do have the option of pressing for a court case, but only if specific prerequisites are fulfilled. For example, if an accident happens in a "no-fault" state, the Insurance Information Institute mentions that insurance in that state limits the right to sue. However, if the insurance refuses to settle, you may still be entitled to go to court to leverage a settlement against them.
Going to court for a car accident shouldn't be a decision you take lightly, especially since litigation costs quite a bit and may take several months to draw to a close. Most clients don't decide to go to court unless they have no other option. If you're the at-fault party, then you may have no choice but to appear in court if summoned. In such a case, getting a car accident lawyer to represent you may improve your chances of a lower settlement. If you get subpoenaed to appear, you will have to go to court for your car accident. Aside from this, your case may end up in court for several other reasons.
Going to court is a last resort for those who file cases against insurance companies or the other driver. In many of these cases, lawyers can hash out a settlement before the case reaches trial. There may be other extraneous reasons why your case may end up in court, including:
Typically, insurance would cover most expenses if the driver gets into an accident. However, if the other party lacks insurance or is underinsured, you won't be covered for your damages. In such a case, the driver (if they were at fault) is the sole responsible party for paying for damages. As Nerd Wallet states, car insurance helps you to cover the damages related to an accident where you were at fault. If the other party has no insurance, you may need to take them to court to secure your settlement.
Lacking insurance puts the other party in a difficult situation. They may need to take the matter to court to avoid losing a lot of money through damages. While they may still have a ruling against them, the court may be more lenient in the damages awarded to the plaintiff. This reason may be good enough to let the matter get to court since it lowers the settlement value overall.
As mentioned before, most insurance companies prefer to settle out of court. However, if the insurance company believes that their client was not at fault, they may put up a fight. Forbes notes that it's excessively difficult to determine fault in a car accident. If the insurance company thinks it can avoid paying the full amount of the settlement, they will prefer it go to court. In such a case, the lawyer representing you will need to present an excellent case to convince the jury of the facts.
Insurance companies typically have their own battery of lawyers. They are a formidable force, and if the insurance company senses that you aren't determined about the case, they may want to push for a court trial. The trial allows them to present evidence that may call your version of events into question. Your accident attorney should be aware of this situation and counter it if it arises. However, the onus is on you to ensure that your lawyer knows the case's facts with no detail omitted.
Occasionally, you might be called as a witness to another case. The most common occurrence of this is when the other party is involved in a traffic violation. The state may call you as a witness since you were present when the offense was committed. If you also have a pending suit against the other party, you may want to speak to your car accident lawyer before attending court. You will have to appear if the court subpoenas you.
Car accident cases can either be bench trials (tried solely by a judge) or jury trials (a jury of your peers is selected to try you). Most states default to a bench trial unless a jury trial is specifically requested. When your car accident lawyer files the lawsuit, they will include information on whether they want a jury trial or not. In the majority of cases where the accident caser goes to court, having a jury is preferred.
Before the trial, there is a pre-trial period and a discovery period, where both sides can uncover and submit evidence that will be used in the case. During the pre-trial period, the courts will invite both parties to meet and discuss the possibility of a settlement. If an agreement is reached at this point, then the case doesn't even make it to trial. If these avenues are exhausted without a compromise, then the trial begins.
Both sides will have the right to present evidence n their behalf. The standard in legal cases is that the accused party remains innocent until proven guilty. Thus, on presenting the case, the plaintiff needs to show the evidence to prove their case. Cornell Law School terms this "preponderance of the evidence," and defines it as one of the evidentiary standards used in a burden of proof analysis. In a case involving a car accident, this translates into convincing the judge or jury that the defendant was negligent and that their negligence was responsible for the accident, which led to the plaintiff's personal injuries.
To establish the burden of proof, the plaintiff can rely on testimony from themselves, the defendant, and other parties. Additional evidence in the form of police reports, medical charts, and expert testimony from doctors or nurses may also play a part in the case. Typically, the plaintiff's most important witness is themselves. Since they were present during the accident, they are an eyewitness to the unfolding events. They were also the primary party to go through treatment and are well aware of the pain and suffering caused by the accident.
The defendant has the right to cross-examine witnesses presented by the plaintiff during the court case. The defendant can also object to the introduction of new evidence into the matter. The judge then has a decision as to which evidence should be kept and which should be discarded. There are always two sides to a case, and the defendant will have the chance to present their version of events. This ability to defend themselves also includes calling their own expert witnesses and presenting evidence that they may have gathered to prove their innocence. The plaintiff also has the right to cross-examine the defendant's witnesses if they please. Closing arguments are then made, and the jury deliberates over the decision.
The judge in the case addresses the jury before they go in for deliberation. She will most likely advise them on what the law sees as negligence to determine whether the defendant was negligent in their actions. Additionally, the judge may also note the burden of proof and instruct the jury as to what the plaintiff needs to establish for them to render a guilty verdict.
Deliberation will take some time, and different states have their own standards for what constitutes agreement. In most states, at least three-quarters of the jury must agree for the decision to stand. There's no set time for deliberation, and the jury will continue to weigh the facts until they are convinced of a decision. When they reach this point, they will return to the court and present their decision to the judge for them to read it out.
Once the verdict is read, the judge will move that it be entered as settled in favor of the prevailing party. The clerk of courts has the responsibility for entering the verdict into the records. If either party is unsatisfied with the ruling handed down, they have a window to submit an appeal to the appeals court. If no appeal is offered during the window, then the judgment stands as final. Once it becomes a finalized judgment, neither party is allowed to contest the decision.
If you're not subpoenaed to appear before the court, then the choice to take the matter to trial is up to you. If the insurance company decides to lowball you on a settlement and your lawyer thinks you could get more in court, you should seriously consider it. It's more than just the money. In many cases, it's the principle of the fact. Some drivers avoid paying for insurance because they don't see the need for it. In these cases, you may need to take the at-fault driver to court to get anything at all. The decision is yours, but some situations are far more favorable to you than others.
If you have been involved in a car accident, it is best to consult an experienced attorney in Denver. Firouzbakht Law Firm has the knowledge and skills to handle your car accident case if it goes to court. Contact us today for a FREE consultation.