After a car accident, there are a lot of different details that you will need to figure out in order to decide the most appropriate course of action. Regardless of how minor or major your accident was, if you were injured in a crash that someone else caused, then you deserve compensation so that you are not shouldering the financial burden of someone else’s actions. Typically, these types of settlements are handled through out-of-court negotiations directly between you (or your car accident lawyer in San Diego) and the insurance company representing the responsible driver.
A significant number of personal injury cases are settled before a lawsuit is filed, and many lawsuits are settled before a trial, but that does not mean that you are certain to reach a settlement agreement without the help of the courts. The most important goal for you is to get the money you deserve, and when you are partnered with an experienced attorney they will be able to guide you through the entire process, taking any steps necessary to get you what you are entitled to.
In any car accident where both drivers are insured, the first step is to file a claim with the insurance company representing the responsible driver. During the claims investigation, an insurance adjuster will be assigned to your case on behalf of the insurance company, ostensibly to figure out how much money to give you, but realistically looking for every reason to lower your final offer.
However, you will be working with an attorney during this time who will be handling their own claims investigation and doing their own calculations, which will be important in the next phase of negotiations once the investigation is concluded. The goal of these negotiations is to reach an agreement for a settlement amount that is less than what you would likely be awarded in court, but can avoid a costly and time-consuming trial.
There are a variety of circumstances that may lead to you and your attorney deciding that filing a lawsuit is the appropriate course of action. Once you file a formal complaint with the courts, there is still a long process until you receive a final ruling from a judge, and a significant number of lawsuits are settled before trial, as well. Again, your experience will be unique to your own situation, and your attorney will be able to set your expectations at every step of the way.
Once a lawsuit is filed, you will need to go through a discovery phase that will include depositions, sworn affidavits, testimonies, and a significant amount of information that will be exchanged between the defendant and plaintiff. Once this phase is concluded, the courts will require that you attempt another series of negotiations with the hopes that new information has emerged and you are able to move past whatever past blockers were hampering your previous negotiations.
If you are unable to reach an agreement during these negotiations, you will then prepare for a trial where a judge and jury will hear your complaints, consider the arguments on both sides, and ultimately determine an appropriate award for the victim. If you do not agree with the ruling, then you may be able to file an appeal, which will require a new and equally involved process.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not you should file a lawsuit against the responsible party is up to you and your attorney, and accounts for a lot of specifics of your case. Ideally, you will be able to negotiate directly with the other party and their insurance company, and hopefully reach a fair out-of-court settlement in order to avoid this complicated process.