What is the Car Accident Lawsuit Process?
Have you been injured in a car accident? You may be thinking about the car accident lawsuit process to seek justice and compensation for your injuries.
With more than 220+ years of combined legal experience, our North Carolina car accident lawyers have been fighting for justice for car accident injury victims for more than three decades. In that time, we’ve helped thousands of clients answer this important question:
What is the car accident lawsuit process?
The truth of the matter is that it depends. No auto accident case is the same, and the unique facts and circumstances of your case will determine the best legal path forward.
That said, there are some general things to keep in mind as you consider a potential lawsuit to recover damages for your injuries.
Here’s what you can expect in the car accident lawsuit process:
- Investigation — After taking your case, your car accident attorney will want to collect all evidence and information relevant to the accident. Evidence can include the police report, crash scene photos and physical evidence, medical records, witness interviews, and more. In the most serious cases (often those involving truck and tractor-trailer accidents), your attorney may organize a more detailed investigation that may involve hiring expert witnesses and accident reconstructionists.
- Negotiation — Prior to filing a lawsuit in your car accident case (or immediately afterward), your attorney will likely attempt to negotiate a mutually agreeable settlement with the insurance company involved. In general, insurance companies attempt to pay as little on injury claims as possible, but they are also incentivized to keep the dispute out of court due to the time and legal expenses required. In certain cases, your attorney’s indication that he or she is preparing to file a lawsuit is enough to bring the insurance company or defense counsel to the negotiating table to work out a fair settlement.
- Waiting — If you and your attorney decide to file a lawsuit, be prepared to spend a lot of time waiting. The court system is overwhelmed with cases, and it will likely take some time for your case to work its way through. It is not uncommon to have to wait several months or even more than a year for a case to come before the court. In the meantime, your attorney will likely spend a significant amount of time writing legal briefs, filing court documents, conducting depositions, hiring expert witnesses and communicating with the court and/or defense counsel. During this time your lawyer may also advise you not to say anything about your case in public or post on social media in order to protect your legal rights. What you say on social media can be used later against you.
- Mediation and/or Arbitration — In most cases, after a lawsuit is filed in your case, the court requires all parties to mediate the matter in an attempt to resolve it short of a trial. These negotiations are moderated by a neutral third party called a mediator. In some cases, the parties may choose to arbitrate the case. In the case of arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision may be binding or non-binding, depending on the arrangement.
- Trial — In rare cases, your lawsuit may not settle prior to trial. In these instances, your case will head to trial where your attorney will argue before a jury. In a trial, your attorney may question and cross-examine witnesses. You may even have to testify yourself. Depending on the circumstances of your car accident, your attorney may also opt to bring in expert witnesses such as accident reconstructionists medical doctors to testify. At the end of the trial, the jury will deliberate and announce its verdict to the judge.
- New Trial or Appeal — After a trial, both parties may have an opportunity to appeal the verdict, in which case your lawsuit may extend for several more months or even years. Due to the extraordinary time and expense involved in an appeal, both you and the insurance company are incentivized to settle the case out of court. Before an appeal is granted, your attorney will either have to request that a higher court review the case, or motion for a new trial. In most cases, a motion for a new trial is only granted if certain conditions are met during your initial trial, such as jury misconduct, misconduct by defense counsel, or if new evidence comes to light.
- Collection — When your car accident lawsuit is resolved (either through a pre-trial settlement or a verdict in the courtroom), you generally won’t receive your settlement immediately. In cases settled out of court, the terms of the agreement typically require that the defendant pays you within a certain time period — often 20 to 30 days. In many instances, these settlement agreements also stipulate that if you are not paid on time, the defendant is required to pay additional interest. If your case goes to trial, on the other hand, it may take even longer to collect your payment. In most states, the defense is not obligated to pay until after the time period for filing a motion for a new trial or appeal has passed. Further, if a motion for a new trial or appeal is made, the process can go on for several more months or even years.
Will my car accident lawsuit settle?
The reality is that the majority of car accident lawsuits filed are settled prior to trial. In fact, according to recent research, 95 percent of car accident lawsuits settle before trial.
Insurance companies are incentivized to settle quickly in order to avoid spending time and money preparing for trial. Trials are also unpredictable, and there is a good chance that if a case goes to trial, the insurance company may end up paying significantly more.
In many cases, you as the plaintiff are also incentivized to settle the lawsuit before trial. This is because you may wait months or even years before a case comes before a judge or jury, by which point you may have incurred expensive medical bills and even missed out on wages. It may be in your best interest to attempt to settle a case prior to trial so that you can collect damages sooner rather than later. Most of our clients want to settle and file suit only when they aren’t being treated fairly by the insurance company. Our clients don’t seek a handout, they seek only compensation for what was taken from them through no fault of their own.
Have you been injured in a car accident?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in North Carolina, our experienced injury lawyers may be able to help. We have been fighting for injured North Carolinians for more than three decades, and our attorneys are committed to seeking justice for those hurt due to someone else’s negligence.
There is no obligation and there are no upfront costs or attorney fees unless we win your case and you receive financial compensation.
Recent settlements and judgments in North Carolina car accident cases include:
- $9,450,000 | Car Accident, Truck Accident & Wrongful Death — Our trial attorneys represented the surviving family members of a family of four that was tragically killed in an accident involving several tractor-trailers on a busy NC highway. We brought in accident reconstructionists to investigate the crash scene and even subpoenaed Google Maps for traffic data to prove our case. Justice was served as we ultimately secured more than $9 million in total compensation from several insurance carriers.
- $2,750,000 | Car Accident — Attorney Donald Dunn fought for justice for a man who suffered serious fractures to his neck, arms and legs after being hit head-on by another vehicle. Dunn secured more than $2 million in total compensation through arbitration, which was followed by a separate $1 million declaratory judgment against one of the insurance companies involved.
- $2,250,000 | Car Accident & Wrongful Death — Our client was killed instantly when hit head-on by a truck that crossed the center line. Attorney Gene Riddle took the case and immediately organized a thorough accident investigation, after which he advised defense counsel of his intent to file suit. The parties entered mediation where Riddle negotiated more than $2 million in total compensation.
***Disclaimer: The results mentioned are intended to illustrate the type of cases handled by the firm. These results do not guarantee a similar outcome, and they should not be construed to constitute a promise or guarantee of a particular result in any particular case. Every case is different, and the outcome of any case depends upon a variety of factors unique to that case.
“Riddle & Brantley found me all the available money from the insurance companies.”
We serve clients in Raleigh, Durham, Goldsboro, Greenville, Kinston and Jacksonville. Please note that in-person meetings in Durham, Greenville and Kinston are available by appointment only.
Justice Counts for injured North Carolinians. We understand what you’re going through and would love to help you if we can.