How Do Car Accident Court Proceedings Go?

After you have been involved in a car accident your personal injury attorney will negotiate a settlement with the insurance company, or the attorneys for the negligent party, and try to get you the compensation that you deserve for your damages. But sometimes an agreement cannot be met between the two parties and the case needs to be heard in front of a jury. Car accident attorneys know that there is no guarantee that a case will settle out of court, so they typically approach each case as if it is going to be presented in front of a judge. But finding out that you need to go to trial may leave you with a lot of questions about how the hearings will go. The following information is a general guide to help you better understand what to expect, but the best thing to do is talk to a car accident lawyer about your case.

It’s the job of the attorney for the other party to reduce the amount of money their client will have to pay for your injuries, and they want to save on attorney fees and court costs as well, so they will offer a lower settlement. But a jury may be more likely to award you higher damages that will cover your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

It’s important to keep in mind that going to trial is going to be very stressful, and attorneys fight to protect their clients from having to go down that road without compromising on their compensation. And it’s also important to keep in mind that your case may be delayed or procedures may be changed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and mandatory stay-at-home measures that have closed courts. Staying in close contact with your attorney will help you stay up-to-date regarding your hearing.

Before Going To Trial

Depending on where you live you may only file a claim for your car accident if you meet a certain threshold. In an effort to reduce the number of lawsuits for minor cases, in those states you must have at least $10,000 worth of damages that you were asking for in order to bring your car crash case to court. In those cases, you would need to be suffering from severe or permanent injuries, such as paralysis, or have lost a loved one during the crash. This is why it’s important to hire a personal injury attorney where the accident happened.

Steps In A Court Proceeding

When your court date arrives, your attorney will have more instructions on what you need to do to prepare, and where you need to be by when. But to give you a broad overview of what to expect, here are the different steps in a court proceeding.

Selecting The Jury

Potential jurors are asked a series of questions posed to them by the judge and lawyers to determine if they have any biases or prejudices that will keep them from being fair and impartial. In most states, a jury decides the verdict in car accident cases, as opposed to a judge.

Opening Statements

During the opening statements, your attorney will claim the defendant was negligent in causing a car accident at the date and location the crash occurred, and that as a direct result of that negligence the victim was injured. Additionally, even though their client has had top-quality care, they continued to have pain and disability from their injuries.

Presentation of Evidence

Before your attorney has stepped foot in the courtroom they’ve already determined what evidence they want to show and what they intend to prove. This is when medical records, the police report, and expert witness testimony are used to support your claims.

Closing Arguments

A strong closing argument can help win your personal injury case. During the closing arguments, your attorney accurately review the facts in a compelling manner.

Jury Deliberation

Sometimes a jury deliberates for a few hours before deciding liability in favor of the plaintiff, and sometimes it takes them days or a little longer.

Verdict, And Possibly The Award

When the jury has reached the verdict they will send word through either the bailiff or courtroom deputy. The verdict is read in front of the court, as well as the award amount. Once they return a verdict, either side can file an appeal if they disagree with the jury’s verdict.

The Insurance Company Will Fight Back Hard

There are other issues that can arise that you may not think of. For example, if you did not accept medical treatment at the scene of the accident or even told the officer “I’m fine,” they can put in their police report that you had no injuries at the time of the accident. But as doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals know, many injuries don’t have apparent symptoms until hours or even days later. There are a couple of reasons for that, but the easiest way to understand it is that the body is reacting to a stressor (the accident) after it happened, and goes into a different mode. This is your “fight or flight” response, which keeps you sharp and quick to respond in moments of danger. Even if you do accept medical treatment, the lawyers for the insurance company may still point to the police report’s documentation that you had no injuries. This is why you need a Fresno personal injury lawyer Grossman representing you and anticipating potential arguments and challenges from the insurance company.

Evidence To Support Your Case

An expert witness is an authority in a specialized field, such as a medical professor or an accident reconstructionist, who can testify on your behalf. Expert witnesses also have experience in product failure analysis, engineering, biomechanics, and injury analysis. They can provide precise and clear testimony to the judge and help your case.

Experience Matters When Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney

Your case may seem straightforward, but an experienced attorney knows that no outcome is guaranteed, and anticipates the challenges their client will face. Each state and municipality have their own traffic laws, and while many personal injury statutes are similar across states, your best option is to hire an attorney in the area where your accident occurred. If there are any laws that you were unaware of that can affect the outcome of your case, an attorney will be able to explain them to you. And if you need to go to court, then you want to hire someone who knows the courts in the area where you were injured. 

You will also want to consider the type of firm you want to work with. Some firms bring out their senior partners to meet clients for the consultation, but then those clients never see those attorneys ever again. Instead, they speak with a legal aide whenever they have questions, rather than with their own attorney. A car accident is a traumatic event, so it is important that your attorney is compassionate as much as they are knowledgeable. Details about your medical condition will be read in front of the court, but having an empathetic guide with years of experience can make going to court a smoother process for you, and will exhaust their resources for your case.

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