Car accident victims seek financial relief because of the burden their family faces when they are out of work recovering from an injury. It is also important for a victim to ensure the driver responsible for their injury is held legally accountable for their negligent behavior. However, the fact remains that a car accident case seldom, if ever, goes to court.
Is there any relief in sight?
Yes, with the help of a car accident attorney.
After a car accident, the two main ways you can pursue compensation are by filing with insurance or filing a lawsuit. You might deserve more compensation than the insurance company is willing to offer, and if they don’t deal with you fairly, you might need to go to court.
However, the fact is car accident trials happen more often in movies and TV than in real life. That’s right: the vast majority of car accident cases settle without any litigation. While most car accident cases do not go all the way to trial, you should feel confident about going to court if you need to. Here’s the scoop!
- How Often Do Car Accident Cases Go To Court?
- Civil Cases Rarely Result in Trials
- What Compensation Can An Accident Victim Recover?
- What If A Loved One Died From Their Injuries?
- Can You Speed Up The Resolution of A Car Accident Case?
- Why Do So Few Civil Cases Go to Trial?
- Reasons Why Car Accident Cases May Wind Up in Court
- Steps Victims Should Take to Protect Their Rights
- Why Hiring a Lawyer is Necessary Even When a Trial May Not Occur
- Legal Guidance Helps Move Your Claim Forward
How Often Do Car Accident Cases Go To Court?
Car accident cases are considered a type of tort case. Tort is a legal term for an act that causes loss or harm to a person.
Bureau of Justice Statistics data show that only 3% of all tort cases go to trial. This means you have a good chance of settling out of court with an insurance company in a car accident injury case. Why?
Civil Cases Rarely Result in Trials
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), only a small number of civil cases ever make it to court. When someone is in a car accident, they can file a lawsuit for their losses.
These losses often include:
- Medical expenses. When someone is injured in an accident and suffers an injury, they need medical attention immediately following the accident. However, this is seldom the last treatment they will require. Victims often require extensive follow-up care, including the potential of being seen by specialists, needing pain medications, and in some cases, requiring long-term nursing or medical care for the injury. Medical expenses related in any way to the accident, current, and future, are included in a damage claim.
- Lost income. Victims who need time to recover from their injuries are often unable to work. During this time, they may be collecting disability or other payments. However, you can recover the difference between your usual and current income. A permanently disabled victim can include future income losses.
- Other financial losses. A car accident victim contributes to their household in ways other than bringing home a paycheck. They may take their children to after-school activities, do yard work, and may do other household chores. If they cannot do these activities because of their injury, they may have to pay someone to do them in their stead. Often, a car accident injury attorney can help victims recover these losses.
- Pain and suffering. Any type of injury is painful. While pain and suffering are considered non-economic damage, most car accident victims will be advised by an attorney to include this classification of damages in their claims. This would include both physical pain as well as emotional suffering resulting from the accident which caused the injury.
- Punitive damages. These are damages punish someone whose “willful acts were malicious, violent, oppressive, fraudulent, wanton or grossly reckless,” according to Law.Com. These are only demanded when someone’s behavior warrants these types of damages, such as a drunk driver, a reckless driver, or someone who harmed another person during a road rage incident.
All claims for personal injury damages following a car accident are complicated due to the various types of compensation that a victim may seek. The more serious the injury, the higher the settlement demand.
What Compensation Can An Accident Victim Recover?
If you take your car accident case to trial and win, a court will award you compensation. A fair settlement will account for both your economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages have a set cost associated with them, such as medical bills. Noneconomic damages are the less tangible—but no less real—impacts of the accident, such as pain and suffering.
On behalf of injured parties, personal injury attorneys may pursue compensation that adequately covers:
- All medical bills for their accident-related injuries. No one should have to pay for medical costs when someone else is responsible for their injuries. A settlement should cover any existing medical bills and an amount estimated to cover future medical care for accident injuries.
- Time off of work during recovery. Not everyone has benefits at work that pay for time off due to illness or injury, and even if they do, their PTO can run out quickly. Injured parties should not have to worry about losing their home or paying bills after a car accident because they cannot return to work.
- Lost income for those who are unable to return to work. Some injuries will prevent people from ever working again. Even with “minor” injuries, it can be difficult to lift anything or stand on your feet for long periods of time. Money cannot undo someone’s injuries, but it can fill the income gap if someone is unable to return to work at all.
- Repair or replacement of a damaged vehicle. Many households cannot get by without a car, taxis and rideshare services can be expensive, and public transportation can stretch a 10-minute commute into an hour-long one. Injured parties deserve to have their car repaired, or if necessary, replaced.
- Pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Some car accident victims experience emotional and psychological challenges after their crashes. They may have PTSD and lingering nightmares. Some people experience crippling anxiety about riding in a car or driving. In other cases, accident-related injuries cause permanent disfigurement and scarring. A settlement should compensate for these types of harms.
What If A Loved One Died From Their Injuries?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, around 90 car crash victims die each day in the U.S. No amount of money can ever replace a life, but a wrongful death car accident settlement can help stabilize a grieving family’s financial future.
Surviving family members may pursue a wrongful death settlement that covers:
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
- Any accident-related medical care that the deceased received before passing away
- Compensation for the loss of parental guidance for any minor children
- Compensation for the loss of companionship for a surviving spouse
- Any future income that the deceased would have earned during their working years
- Payment for household maintenance that the deceased performed, such as snow removal or home repairs
Can You Speed Up The Resolution of A Car Accident Case?
Yes; call a car accident lawyer. That will ensure your claim moves quickly without sacrificing the money you need—and deserve—to pay for your damages.
No one wants a car accident case to drag out. Not the client, not the lawyers, and not even the insurance company. Attorneys know that it’s difficult for their clients to wait for answers or an update. That’s why some firms have legal professionals available 24/7 to take calls or answer chat messages.
Some aspects of the case’s timeline will fall out of the injured party’s control. However, you can move things along faster.
Contact a car accident law firm right after the accident. There is no reason to wait to contact an attorney. You’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain! If an individual doesn’t have a viable legal case, an attorney will let them know at the first case consultation.
Hiring an attorney can also protect your legal rights. All states in the U.S. have their own time limits for car accident victims to file a lawsuit after an accident. These time limits are called statutes of limitations. If you wait too long, you could miss your opportunity to recover compensation. This is especially true when you need to bring suit against a government entity, in which case the time limit to file is typically much shorter.
Contacting an attorney as soon as possible also helps you preserve evidence. Evidence tends to fade over time, and if you need an investigation to figure out what happened or who caused a car accident, your legal team needs to get started sooner rather than later.
Investigators may need to find and review photos, dashcam videos, and any other cameras that may have captured the accident. If necessary, they will go to the scene of the accident to get a better picture of what happened. It is normally easier to track down witnesses soon after an accident than if you wait.
Seek medical attention right away. Seriously injured car accident victims might not have a choice in the matter—they get taken away for medical treatment in an ambulance. But car accident victims who are not rushed away in an ambulance should not make the mistake of thinking that they’re “okay.” Never put off getting checked out by a doctor.
A person can still be injured even if they did not require emergency medical services. The adrenaline rush after a crash can numb a person’s pain receptors, potentially taking away any indication that they are injured. Some serious injuries only appear to the victim hours or even days later.
Getting prompt medical treatment can put you in a position to move your case along and help you avoid a fight with the insurance company about whether you caused or contributed to your injuries by not seeking medical treatment. It is best to be checked out by a doctor right after a car accident.
Keep all medical appointments. After an accident, even getting out of bed can be a struggle. Individuals may also be scrambling to find transportation if their car was damaged. However, it is critical to attend all recommended medical appointments after a car accident. Medical records are key evidence in car accident cases.
Without complete and accurate medical records, the legal team’s work becomes much more difficult. Consistent medical treatment helps them accurately calculate the medical expenses for which you are claiming compensation.
Why Do So Few Civil Cases Go to Trial?
There are thousands of car accidents annually. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than four million people suffer injuries on an annual basis on our roadways in various types of crashes.
While some of the injured include drivers responsible for the more than three million crashes resulting in injury, there are still millions of victims who were not doing anything that caused the accident. When reviewing these statistics, it is easy to forget these numbers are not merely numbers that an agency compiled; they represent people with families.
One of the many reasons why so few civil cases ever go to trial is because of insurance companies. It is always helpful to remember they are in business to make money. Insurers make money when people pay insurance premiums. However, their bottom line is directly affected when they pay a claim.
Some of the reasons why both insurers and victim’s attorneys do not like to take a case to court include:
- High cost of litigation. The cost of litigation weighs heavily on both parties. For a victim, a court trial will result in the final amount they receive after the litigation will be less than if they settled otherwise.
- Time issues. While time is money, the time to deal with a legal proceeding frustrates both the insurer and the victim. While the victim struggles financially to make ends meet, insurers must record the lawsuit as a liability until there is a final settlement. It is beneficial to both the insurer and the victim to resolve a case as quickly and efficiently as possible.
- Uncertainty over the outcome. While we often hear about massive civil cases which end in large verdicts, court cases are not predictable. While juries may side with a victim, there is an equal chance they will side with an insurer. Even if a jury awards a substantial settlement to a victim, these verdicts can be appealed, and appeals are even more unpredictable than initial trials.
While some law firms focus on getting a case to court, especially high-profile cases, in many cases, a skilled car accident injury attorney takes pride in getting settlements before there is a need to go to court. A skilled negotiator can make all the difference when working with an insurance company.
Reasons Why Car Accident Cases May Wind Up in Court
While some car accident injury cases are simple, straightforward cases, some are more complex and may have to go to court for a successful resolution.
Some of the most common reasons for taking a car accident to litigation include:
- Insufficient offer from the insurer. When victims have suffered life-changing injuries such as paralysis, traumatic brain injuries, or the loss of a limb, their lives will never be the same. This is typically reflected in demand for settlement which their lawyer sends to the insurer. However, because an insurance company loses money when they settle claims, their offers and counteroffers may be deemed insufficient. This is something a victim and their attorney will decide when an offer is made.
- Disputes over fault in an accident. providing fault in a car accident is the key to successful settlement outcomes. Since most states have a form of contributory negligence on the books, a dispute may arise as to the percentage of fault everyone shares. If an insurer believes their client is only partially to blame for a victim’s injuries, they may dispute the claim entirely.
- Complex cases. when an accident case is complicated, they are more likely to go to court. Accidents involving trucks, mechanical failures, crashes involving multiple vehicles, or company-owned vehicles may have multiple parties responsible for a victim’s injuries. These cases often involve multiple insurers making negotiations more complicated for all involved parties.
These are some reasons why a car accident victim may be advised by their accident injury attorney to stick with the case and prepare for a trial. Remember that even when a case is being tried or deliberated by a jury, it may still be possible to reach a successful settlement.
Steps Victims Should Take to Protect Their Rights
Whether a car accident case will have to be tried in court or not, an accident victim should protect their rights.
Some of these steps can make a significant difference when an attorney is negotiating with an insurance company:
- Seeking medical attention. Too often, in the immediate aftermath of an accident, victims are in shock and unaware they have an injury. Regardless of what a victim may think at the scene of an accident, they should always seek medical care. This step provides additional documentation of the fact that someone was in an accident and is also a necessity when filing a personal injury claim.
- Getting recommended follow-up care. After suffering an injury in an auto accident, it is important to follow all doctor’s recommendations for follow-up care. Failure to follow doctor’s orders can jeopardize your claim for injuries.
- Seek legal help. All car accident victims who suffered an injury because of a negligent driver should seek legal help. Regardless of how straightforward the facts may be, there is still a chance the insurer will deny a claim filed for injuries.
Using social media, providing recorded statements to insurance companies, and doing chores against a doctor’s orders are all things that should be avoided. A victim needs to remember that once a claim has been opened, insurers may hire an investigator to determine if the victim is injured as seriously as their claim states. Victims should always use caution when discussing the accident and their injuries with third parties.
Why Hiring a Lawyer is Necessary Even When a Trial May Not Occur
Many victims of car accidents who have suffered injuries believe hiring a lawyer is an expense they should not take on.
However, there are several reasons why having an experienced car accident lawyer negotiating a case is best for victims.
- Understanding of the law. Most lay people do not know the laws in their state as they pertain to personal injury cases. Insurance companies are under no obligation to advise a victim of their rights or obligations under the law.
- Negotiation skills. An attorney who handles negotiations with insurance companies regularly has good negotiation skills. This is helpful for victims because they always know they have an advocate fighting for the best possible settlement which can be sought from an insurer. In some cases, because an insurer is familiar with an attorney, they may be more willing to negotiate a fair settlement immediately rather than dragging the process along.
- Trial preparation. In the case of complicated cases, when insurance negotiations break down, a lawyer will be prepared to go to trial. Attorneys who practice personal injury law know who to call as expert witnesses can help with accident investigations and will be prepared in the event communications with insurers are at a standstill.
Car accident victims are often reluctant to seek advice from an attorney because they believe they lose control over their claims when an attorney is involved. This is a myth that insurance company adjusters have largely perpetuated.
When an insurance adjuster contacts a car accident victim regarding their claim, they will often recommend they not seek legal help because it will “slow things down,” and the lawyer will not share information with the victim. This is not true—an attorney has every reason to move the case along as quickly as possible for one thing.
Second, an attorney must always act in the best interest of their clients. Anytime an offer is made by the insurer, the lawyer must present it to the client for approval or denial. Only the client can make a final decision on whether or not to accept an offer.
Legal Guidance Helps Move Your Claim Forward
While it is true that most civil cases never go to court, you should partner up with an experienced lawyer following a car accident. Negligence can be challenging to prove in some cases. Even when an accident is clearly the fault of another driver, insurance company adjusters may attempt to offer a very low settlement amount that does not cover a victim’s losses.
Hiring a lawyer allows a victim to focus on their recovery. It provides victims peace of mind, knowing that regardless of whether the final settlement comes from the insurer or the case heads to the court, someone will be standing by the victim and serving as an advocate for their rights and pushing for the best possible outcome.
Whether you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury in a car accident or you lost a loved one because of injuries suffered in a car accident, a car accident lawyer can help you seek compensation for your loss.