A car accident changes a life for the worse. A victim might be stuck at home recovering from their injuries. They can’t go to work, yet the bills continue to pile up. Their life has become an endless series of doctors and therapy appointments.
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?
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?
Reasons Most Car Accident Cases Settle Out Of Court
Usually, neither party in a car accident case wants to go through a trial. Settling can save victims court costs if the insurance company will settle fairly. The insurance company isn’t too eager to go to court either, for similar reasons.
An out-of-court settlement might offer advantages for all parties in a car accident case.
A court trial comes with many uncertainties. Of the 3% of tort cases that do go to trial, the injured party only wins about half the time. These aren’t the best odds when the risk is that you are left unable to pay for skyrocketing medical bills, and perhaps unable to work.
While you may feel your case is strong, it can be hard to predict how a jury or judge will view the case. A trial is a bit of an all-or-nothing proposition—one clear winner, one clear loser. Parties often sidestep uncertainty by settling and compromising.
Court trials can cost a lot of money. Going to court means that a client and their legal team spend more time and more money on the case. When all court costs and lawyer fees are paid, a trial may substantially lessen the amount of compensation a victim pockets.
Insurance companies usually want to settle to save costs, too. They typically don’t like open claims, and their attorneys don’t work for free. The sooner they can resolve claims, the more money they tend to save.
Trials take time. A court case is almost certain to last longer than settling out-of-court. Courts in many jurisdictions have packed dockets, and clients may wait a long time for their trial dates. This delay may mean that bills don’t get paid and creditors become increasingly antsy. Plus, from an emotional standpoint, accident victims need closure as much as they need money. Settling can be a way to end the process for everyone and allow a car accident victim to move on with their life.
A trial is often unnecessary. Larger, national personal injury law firms have resources that many smaller firms do not. The attorneys at these firms are skilled negotiators who can anticipate what insurance companies will do to get out of paying a fair settlement. Attorneys with experience avoid litigation by staying one step ahead. These firms avoid trial because their legal team is skilled enough to get an insurance company to settle fairly.
When Do Car Accident Cases Go To Trial?
While statistics show that car accident trials are rare, sometimes going to court is the best course of action. If a legal team feels that litigation might be beneficial, they advise their client accordingly. The client makes the ultimate decision about whether or not to go to trial.
Some reasons an attorney might advise taking a case to trial include:
The insurance company won’t agree to a fair settlement. Going to trial may be necessary to get the compensation you deserve if the insurance company refuses to offer or agree to settle for a fair amount. This situation can arise in any case. However, if you have suffered catastrophic and life-changing injuries, they demand a much greater payout
There is an unsettled dispute over who is responsible for the accident. The insurance company may continue to insist that you are responsible for the accident and refuse to give you a dime. If you have strong evidence to prove otherwise, your attorney may recommend going to trial.
There are more than two parties involved. Accidents involving more than two cars, a rideshare company such as Uber or Lyft, or a commercial vehicle bring in additional potentially liable parties. As a result, settling these cases gets more and more complex. Sometimes, a municipality is even responsible due to failure to maintain roads or traffic signs.
Having multiple defendants does not guarantee a trial, but it may increase the odds of one, as you need more than one party and their insurer to reach an agreement to avoid trial.
Clients deserve professional and competent legal representation, whether their case settles quickly or goes to trial. A law firm should handle every case as if it is going to go to trial. Clients should look for a legal team that stays on top of matters—one that is vigilant and doesn’t cut corners.
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.