MY CAR ACCIDENT CASE IS NOT SETTLING!?
You were involved in a car crash due to the other driver’s negligence. You have been injured and your car was totaled. You hired a lawyer to help. Now to add insult to injury, the other side’s insurance carrier has made a very bad, lowball settlement offer, and isn’t budging much. What now?
First, remember that you don’t have to settle. It’s your case. The lawyer works for you, and you don’t have to take what the insurance company is offering. If your lawyer tries to pressure you to take an unreasonably low offer, then you may have the wrong lawyer.
If the case doesn’t settle, the next step is to file a lawsuit against the driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash. Some people feel uneasy about suing the other individual involved. But don’t worry. If they are insured, it probably won’t end up costing them a dime. The insurance company will pay for his or her lawyer and for any settlement or judgment.
The lawsuit is kicked off by filing a Complaint. That’s a document drafted by your lawyer stating generally what happened to you and requesting that you be awarded money to compensate you for your loss. You are now the “Plaintiff.” The other side – the “Defendant” – then files an Answer either admitting or denying the statements in your Complaint. Then you’re off to the races.
Next you will go through a process called “discovery.” During this process, you exchange information and documents with the opposing side. Your lawyer will use certain discovery tools to obtain even more information from the Defendant, and maybe even from third parties, such as witnesses. You may be asked to prepare answers to written questions, called “interrogatories,” sent to your lawyer by the Defendant. You may be asked to compile documents responsive to a “Request for Production of Documents” from the Defendant as well. Your lawyer may send interrogatories and requests for documents to the Defendant as well.
You may have to give a “deposition” during discovery. A deposition is a more formal discovery tool. Your lawyer should prepare you for it. The opposing lawyer will ask you questions about your accident, medical treatment, and other things relevant to your case. There will be a court reporter present. You will be sworn in, and your answers to the lawyer’s questions will be under oath. Your lawyer will be with you and will make objections as appropriate. After the deposition, you will have the opportunity to read the written transcript of your testimony when it is ready. You can at that time correct typo’s, spelling and other errors in the transcription. Your lawyer may also take the deposition of the Defendant as well.
Once discovery is complete, the court will schedule your case for trial. Trial may seem intimidating, but don’t let it freak you out. After all, it’s your day in court. Your lawyer will be there to guide you through. A trial is a very formal process. There will be a judge and jury present. The lawyers from each side will question witnesses and present other evidence. The judge will rule on objections and keep tight control of the proceedings. At the end of the evidence, the judge will instruct the jury on the law. The jury will then return a verdict based on the law and the evidence.
After the trial, the losing party may file an appeal, but we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. This post is meant as a brief overview of the process once a complaint is filed. We’ve hit the highlights but left out a lot of the nuances and details. If your lawyer has trial experience, he or she can fill you in on much more detail.