North Carolina Car Accident Lawsuit Timeline
When you have been seriously injured in a car accident, you are unfortunately forced to cope with the consequences immediately. Pain and suffering, medical bills, damage to your vehicle, the inability to go back to work — all of these things have an immediate impact on your life. So it seems unfair that recovering compensation from the at-fault party is not immediate, too.
In fact, pursuing full and fair compensation in a serious car accident case can take years. And let’s face it, not everyone can wait that long. That’s why you need the skilled car accident lawyers at Riddle & Brantley, LLP. We will thoroughly review your case, discuss your needs, and develop a strategy to recover the compensation that you deserve as quickly as possible.
To help you understand what to expect, we have prepared the following North Carolina car accident lawsuit timeline. It explains the basic steps you will need to take to pursue compensation, and it gives a general idea of how long each phase of the process takes. Note that each case is unique, so your car accident lawsuit timeline may vary somewhat from this one.
Step 1: Scheduling a Free Initial Consultation
To get the process started, call or fill out our online form and schedule an initial consultation with us. During this consultation, we will go over the details of your car accident, review your legal options for seeking compensation, and outline the next steps for your case. You should bring any documentation you have to this initial meeting – medical records, accident reports, information about the other driver, etc. You can expect this initial meeting with our legal team to take about 30 minutes.
Step 2: Collecting Evidence and Research
The next step in the North Carolina car accident lawsuit process is for our legal team to collect all the evidence related to your accident. We will track down law enforcement reports, talk to any insurance companies involved, seek out information about the other driver, request all of the medical records and bills related to your injuries, interview eyewitnesses, take notes and photos of the accident scene and your vehicle, and possibly hire experts to consult on your case. This process can take months, but it is essential to develop a strong case for maximum compensation.
Step 3: Determining Maximum Medical Improvement
Before filing a North Carolina car accident lawsuit, it is important to know how your injuries may impact the rest of your life. Of course, we hope that you are able to make a full recovery, but if you don’t, you should be compensated for the lifelong effects this accident will have on you. A doctor will make the determination of maximum medical improvement (MMI) when you have recovered as fully as you possibly can. Depending on your injuries, the doctor may need months or more than a year to evaluate your progress and determine MMI.
Step 4: Filing a Complaint with the Court
You have three years from the date of the wreck to file a North Carolina car accident lawsuit. Of course, you don’t have to wait three years to file, but at Riddle & Brantley, LLP, our dedicated attorneys will want to take the time to put together a solid case before filing a complaint with the court. In the complaint, we will explain the case and the legal basis for the claim, identify all the parties (you as the plaintiff and the at-fault party as the defendant), and outline your demand for damages. The court will then issue a summons to notify the defendant of the complaint and set a time limit for responding to it (often 30 days). From there, the defendant will issue a response to the complaint, which could trigger some back-and-forth filings from both sides before your case moves to the next phase.
Step 5: The Discovery Process
Discovery is a crucial step in the North Carolina car accident lawsuit timeline. This is the part of the process where our attorneys will show the other side how strong your case is. In discovery, both sides review all the evidence each side has gathered, including interviewing (taking depositions) from witnesses. Just as our attorneys have been diligent at gathering evidence to build a solid case for you, the other side has been working hard to paint a picture that helps them avoid being held accountable. The discovery process may take six to eight months, more or less, depending on how complicated your case is.
Step 6: Mediation and Negotiations
Once both sides have a clear picture of all the arguments in a case, intense negotiations will begin as our lawyers, armed with all the evidence, aggressively negotiate on your behalf. If your case has been filed in North Carolina Superior Court (seeking damages of more than $10,000), pre-trial mediation is mandatory. Mediation could take a day or more, depending on how serious both sides are about reaching a full and fair settlement. Many cases will be resolved in mediation, but if the at-fault party refuses to offer you fair compensation in a settlement, the skilled attorneys at Riddle & Brantley, LLP, are always prepared to argue your case in court.
Step 7: The Car Accident Trial Itself
Compared to how long it takes to get to this step in the North Carolina car accident lawsuit timeline, the trial itself can seem to go by in a flash. Although there is no standard length for car accident trials in North Carolina, cases can be decided in a day or can take weeks, depending on how complex they are. If your case involves a lot of evidence and witness testimony, it could take longer. In addition, in a jury trial, jurors may decide very quickly or they may deliberate for an extended period. In bench trials (where the judge makes the ruling), a judge may rule immediately or may need time to deliberate as well.
Step 8: Getting Paid
If you reach a settlement in your case, the insurance company will require you to sign a release and will then send a check through your attorney. This typically happens within a month or two of reaching a settlement agreement. Any liens on your claim, such as outstanding medical bills, will be paid first from this check. At Riddle & Brantley, LLP, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means we do not charge you upfront for our services. As such, our legal fees would also come out of this settlement check. If your case goes on to trial and is resolved with a verdict, it could still take months or years to recover compensation as the case makes its way through the appeals process.
Let’s Talk About Your North Carolina Car Accident Lawsuit Timeline
As you can see, there are no hard and fast rules about how long a North Carolina car accident lawsuit will take. But there’s one rule you should always follow: Never accept a settlement offer without talking to a knowledgeable attorney.
The experienced car accident lawyers at Riddle & Brantley, LLP, are committed to working as efficiently as possible to pursue maximum compensation for our clients, but we will not let an insurance company rush you into a low-ball settlement. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation, and find out how we can help with your case.