If you’re thinking about an auto accident lawsuit, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the process. Your lawyer will walk you through each step, and if you have questions, you’re always welcome to ask. But it’s nice to know what you’re getting into before you dive in with both feet.
The 5 Stages of an Auto Accident Lawsuit
Once you’ve received medical attention and consulted with an attorney who has decided to take on your auto accident lawsuit, you’ll go through a five-stage process. While every case is unique, most auto accident lawsuits follow the same timeline.
1. Complaint and Summons
Your attorney will prepare documents that explain what happened, who’s involved, and who you believe is responsible. This document will also include your request for damages. Once they’re prepared, they must be filed with the court.
2. The Defendant’s Answer
The defendant—the person you’re taking to court—will have a chance to admit or deny responsibility to the accusations in the complaint by filing an answer with the court.
During the period of time following the complaint and answer, both sides gather information on the case. You and the defendant might be asked to provide supporting documentation and write out the answers to questions while you’re under oath. Your lawyer will probably get photos of the area where your auto accident took place, talk to witnesses, and create a very detailed file that includes a complete timeline of what happened to you.
During discovery, your lawyer or the defendant’s lawyer can file any of several motions to change the dynamics of the case. The other party can ask the judge to dismiss your case, or either side may ask the judge to force the other into an action.
4. Settlement Conference or Mediation Conference
Many cases are settled out of court. Your judge may order a settlement conference, or you and the defendant might agree to work with a mediator in order to hash out the details about what happened and how much you should receive in damages.
Not all auto accident lawsuit cases go to trial, but if yours does, you’ll be put on the court’s calendar. Your jury will hear the case and make a final determination based on the evidence that you and the defendant provide.
Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Your attorney will be with you every step of the way, providing guidance and answering your questions.