The Car Accident Lawsuit Process Explained: A Detailed Guide

What’s the average cost of a car accident?

For car accidents that result in simple injuries, the cost of the medical bills can quickly reach $151,000. However, when you start accounting for disabling injuries, the average cost of recovery is well over $1 million.

If someone else’s negligent behavior has caused you or a loved one harm, you need to take legal action. In this article, we’ll review the ins and outs of what you can expect during the car accident lawsuit process. From the accident scene to receiving your payout, the more you know about what to expect, the easier the process will be.

How long does a lawsuit take for a car accident, and what can you do to help speed things up? Read on to find out.

Accident Scene Tips

Staying safe should be your top priority at the accident scene. However, after making sure you and your passengers are in a secured location, it’s helpful if you start gathering evidence.

By taking out your phone and doing a quick voice recording, you’ll be able to recount the minute details of the crash. Even if it’s been days since your accident, go ahead and do a voice recording today. There’s something about speaking out loud, that makes it easier to remember the tiny details of your accident.

Next, it’s also helpful to take pictures at the accident scene. You should get photos of the street your on, weather conditions, vehicle damage, and injuries.

Moving on, witnesses are incredibly helpful, so you’ll want to scan the scene for anyone who saw the crash take place. If you find a witness, get their name and contact number to give to your attorney.

You’ll also want to get the name and badge number of the responding officers. Oftentimes police reports contain errors, and there are not guaranteeing the correct officer’s name will be on the report.

Last but not least, you need to get medical attention after your car accident, even if you think your injuries are minor. It can be hard to tell if you’re injured when your body’s full of adrenaline from the crash. If you go home, instead of letting an ambulance take you to the hospital, you could have a hard time proving the crash caused your injuries.

Over a million Americans sustain whiplash injuries every year. If you have whiplash it could take days for the pain to kick in, and in severe cases, the effects can be disabling.

Finding the Right Type of Lawyer

Moving on, the next step of the car accident lawsuit process is to secure the right type of personal injury lawyer. When you’re looking for a lawyer it’s helpful to get referrals from family and friends. Next, read a few online customer reviews for potential lawyers to get a feel for how happy their past clients are.

Once you find a few good car accident lawyers, start setting up free consultations. During your consultation, personal injury lawyers will help you review the strengths and weaknesses of your case. You should feel at ease talking to the lawyer you’re going to choose to represent your case.

Moving on, you’ll want to ask your lawyer several questions before officially hiring them. For instance, ask what their experience in handling cases similar to yours is, and also find out what their winning case history looks like.

Moving on, make sure you fully understand how they’ll be charging you. Oftentimes, personal injury attorneys operate on a contingency basis.

When a lawyer sets up a contingency payment plan, they get to keep a percentage of your settlement money. However, sometimes lawyers will have built-in fees you have to pay, even if they aren’t able to help you win your case. By fully understanding how your lawyer plans on charging you, you’ll be able to budget accordingly.

Next, find out how your lawyer will be updating you about your case. The best lawyers will offer multiple different communication methods such as email, phone, texts, and in-person updates.

If at anytime a lawyer seems annoyed with your questions, they’re not the right one for you. Instead, lawyers should be patient, understanding, and passionate about helping you get the compensation you deserve.

Dealing With Insurance Companies

After getting coached by your lawyer on what to say, it’s time to file a claim with your insurance company. It’s best if you secure your lawyer, and file your insurance claim the same day as your accident, or at least as soon as possible.

Your insurance company is going to want to record an official statement where you recount the details of your accident. Here are a few questions your insurance company will ask:

  • Where were you coming from?
  • How fast were you driving?
  • What lane were you in?
  • Who was in the car with you?
  • What happened during the impact?
  • What did you do after the impact?
  • Did you sustain any injuries?

You have to be very careful when you’re talking to insurance providers, and make sure to stick to the facts. Simple statements such as, “I’m sorry this happened”, can be seen as an admission of guilt. Your insurance company, as well as the other driver’s insurance company, will be trying to make you liable for the crash. Instead, stick to the facts, and only say the things your lawyer tells you to.

Also, when it comes to commenting on your injuries, be a patient, not a doctor. For example, let’s say an insurance adjuster asks you how serious your injuries are. You can reply, “I’m not a medical professional so I don’t know the full extent of my injuries”. 

What Happens During the Investigation?

The next step in the accident lawsuit process will be an official investigation. Your lawyer is going to look into the details surrounding your accident, as well as gathering different types of evidence. For instance, your lawyer may hire a photographer to go out and take picture of where the accident took place.

Next, your lawyer will reach out to any witnesses you were able to find at the accident scene. Personal injury attorneys will also be able to get copies of your medical records to help decide what type of damages you’re eligible for.

During the discovery period of your injury claim, your lawyer may also request you see specific doctors that they recommend. After getting all of the information they need, your lawyer will likely decide to draft a demand letter to send to the fault driver’s insurance company.

The demand letter will let the insurance company know exactly what type of compensation you want, as well as the deadline for sending it. If the insurance company agrees, great! When you’re able to get settled before trial, you’ll be able to receive your payout money much faster.

Types of Damages You Can Receive

A big part of the car accident lawsuit process is determining what damages you’ve incurred as a crash victim.

Here’s a list of the different type of damages you may be eligible for:

  • Medical costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent disfigurment
  • Property damages
  • Wrongful death
  • Loss of income

You can think of car accident damages as being either economic or non-economic. Economic damages include things like your medical expenses and loss of earning capacity. Whereas non-economical damage would be things like emotional distress or a loss of ability to enjoy life.

Finally, you can also seek out punitive damages. Punitive damages are a way to punish the at-fault driver for their negligent, or reckless behavior. For instance, if a drunk driver caused your crash, you could seek out punitive damages to discourage them from behaving the same way in the future.

Settlement Payout Timeline

How long does it take to get a settlement from a car accident? It’ll depend on the type of settlement you’re receiving. If you’re getting a structured settlement, it can take anywhere from 40-100 days before you start receiving any money. Structured settlements mean that instead of taking a lump sum payout, you’ll receive portions of your payout over some time.

If you decide to take a lump sum settlement payout, you’ll be able to receive your money much faster. One time settlement payouts typically take about 5-6 weeks for you to get your money.

Understanding the Car Accident Lawsuit Process

The car accident lawsuit process can be tricky and complicated. However, as long as you have the right type of personal injury lawyer on your side, you’ll be able to navigate your claim with ease. Since car accident claims are time-sensitive, you can’t afford to go another day without securing an experienced attorney.

Go ahead and call a local attorney today to set up your free consultation. You’ll rest better tonight knowing you don’t have to go through the accident process alone. For more ways to win, read another one of our articles.

Author: Brandon Park