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Guide to Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit

After being seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by the carelessness and negligence of somebody else, you have the right to seek compensation for your damages. What comes to issue is that it will be you against an insurance company that is worth billions of dollars. Insurance companies don’t get that big by giving money away. Their business model is to collect premiums and invest those premiums to make even more money. Then, when claims arise, they want to pay as little as possible or even nothing on them. If you intend on pursuing compensation for your damages, you’ll need a dedicated, aggressive and respected personal injury lawyer. Here is the process that we recommend.

Report the Accident

Call 911 immediately. Tell the dispatcher that you’ve been in an accident, and you need police to sent to the scene to investigate the crash and paramedics to treat you. Never get talked out of this by the person who caused the crash. Police will conduct an investigation and write an accident report. Paramedics will treat you at the scene and transport you to an emergency room. This will begin a long line of medical records, reports and bills that will detail the care and treatment that you’ve received for your injuries.

Don’t Give a Statement

You can expect the insurer of the person who caused your accident to contact you and ask for either a written or recorded statement. No matter what that person says, don’t give any type of a statement at all. Neither state nor federal law require you to do that. Contact us instead to arrange for a free consultation and case evaluation with a car accident lawyer from our law firm.

Where is the Lawsuit Filed?

For purposes of establishing jurisdiction, your lawsuit must be filed in the state that your accident occurred in. Venue will involve the county that the accident occurred in. Your personal injury lawsuit must be filed in the state and county where your accident occurred.

The Complaint

The lawsuit is initiated by filing a written complaint detailing jurisdiction, venue, the highway or street location of the accident, the direction the vehicles were traveling in, a duty of care, a breach of that duty, serious personal injury as a result of the breach and a prayer for damages. A summons is also issued at the time of filing. Some counties allow for electronic filing. Filing fees will be due then and there. You will have a specified period of time in which to serve the defendant with copies of the complaint and summons. Assuming timely service is made, the defendant then has a specified time to file their appearance and answer or otherwise plead to the complaint.

Service

Service of the summons and complaint can be made by the sheriff of the county that the defendant resides in. Depending on court rules, a private process server might be allowed to serve these document. You might find that a private process server is less expensive and more diligent in attempting service than the local sheriff.

The Discovery Stage

However slowly they might seem to turn, the wheels of justice are now moving, and the discovery phase of the case is triggered. This involves the lawyering that clients don’t see. Interrogatories, Requests to Produce, Deposition Notices and other documents, statements or pleadings are exchanged between the respective parties. Sworn oral depositions are taken in the presence of the respective attorneys and a court reporter.

The Pretrial Conference

In most car accident lawsuits, discovery is conducted over a course of months. When it’s completed, one of the attorneys might ask the presiding judge for a pretrial conference. In private, the attorneys for the parties will give their versions of liability and damages, and the judge might make a recommendation on settling the case. That’s a mere recommendation, and either party can demand a jury trial. The overwhelming majority of car accident personal injury cases settle though. For an injured plaintiff, a good settlement is always better than a bad verdict.

Time Limitations

Every state has set a deadline for when a personal injury lawsuit must be filed. That’s known as a statute of limitations. These deadlines are strict, and there are few exceptions to them. If you fail to make a timely filing, your case can be forever dismissed. In New Jersey, the general statute of limitations for personal injury is two years from the date of the accident. In New York, it’s three years from the date of the accident. If a governmental entity is involved, shorter and stricter rules apply.

Don’t try to navigate your way through a case involving serious personal injuries without the benefit of a quality car accident lawyer. There are too many pitfalls, and judges can be particularly unforgiving for any mistakes that you might make. Instead, contact our offices as soon as possible after your accident to arrange for a free consultation and case review. You can tell us what happened and how it happened, and we’ll answer your question too. After that, we can advise you on all of your legal options.

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Guide to Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit