After a car accident that was caused by the negligence, or carelessness, of another person, there are two ways to resolve your case. You can either settle with the negligent party’s insurance company, or you can take the case to trial.
Most people do not want to go to court and they worry about the idea of testifying and other trial proceedings. The good news is that the vast majority of car accident cases in Georgia do settle outside of the courtroom.
Still, there are times when it is necessary to go to trial to claim the full damages you are entitled to. Below, our accident lawyer explains when your car accident case may go to trial, and a general timeline of a trial should you find yourself in court.
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Why Do Car Accident Cases Go to Trial?
In most car accident cases, an attorney representing the injured victim negotiates with the insurance company representing the at-fault party. Negotiations can take weeks or months, depending on how realistic and cooperative both sides are.
Unfortunately, settlement talks sometimes break down and further negotiations are no longer possible. When an insurance company refuses to act in good faith and offer a fair settlement that will cover all of your losses, it may be necessary to go to trial.
The other instance in which you may have to go to trial instead of settling out of court is when the negligent party is not covered by insurance. Even though all drivers in Georgia are required to purchase and carry minimum amounts of insurance, not all motorists abide by this law.
When an uninsured driver causes a crash, you may have to take them to court personally to recover financial compensation. Unfortunately, drivers who cannot afford to pay for insurance may not be able to afford damages, even when a judge or jury awards them.
For this reason, all motorists should purchase uninsured motorist coverage that will allow them to recover compensation from their insurer. This insurance is not mandatory in Georgia, but it is incredibly helpful.
Timeline of a Car Accident Case Trial
If your case has to go to trial, it will transfer from the process of filing a claim with the insurance company to filing a lawsuit with the court. All personal injury lawsuits have unique facts and circumstances, but they will all also follow a general timeline.
This is as follows:
- Preparing the lawsuit: Once you and your lawyer have determined that going to court is necessary, your attorney will start preparing the lawsuit. This can take anywhere between three to six weeks.
- Service and answer: The lawsuit process officially begins when your lawyer serves the other party with the papers. The other party is then known as the defendant and they have 30 days to answer the lawsuit. If they do not answer, they are considered in default, which makes winning the case much easier. In most cases though, the defendant will file an answer.
- Discovery: In Georgia, discovery lasts approximately six months. During this period, each side can ask the other party for information through written questions and depositions.
- Mediation: If the two parties are not too far apart at this point, mediation may be a possibility. During mediation, a neutral third-party mediator will meet with both sides. The mediator does not make any decisions but instead, tries to foster communication and compromise between the two sides so they can reach an agreement. If an agreement is reached, the mediator will send it to the court for approval. If an agreement is not reached, the two sides will continue with litigation.
- Trial: When the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the case will go to litigation or trial. There are two types of trials in personal injury cases. The first is a bench trial, which is only heard by a judge. The second is a jury trial, in which a jury will hear all of the evidence before making a decision on who was to blame and a possible amount for damages. A jury trial can take anywhere between ten months and two years to just be scheduled, but it should not take much longer than that. Actual trials usually only take about two days.
Trials are time-consuming, expensive, and there is no guarantee that you will receive the full damages you deserve. Still, there are times when one is necessary. There are also tips you can follow to avoid a trial altogether.
How to Avoid a Trial After a Car Accident
First and foremost, working with an experienced lawyer is the best way to avoid a trial after a car accident. There are also steps you can take to collect important evidence that will strengthen your case and give you a better chance of settling out of court.
These are as follows:
- Take pictures and video footage: Photos and video footage from the accident scene that is taken moments after the crash can show how the collision happened, and who was to blame.
- Get medical treatment right away: Your health is the most important priority after a crash so, it is important to see a doctor right away. Receiving medical treatment immediately will also provide documentation of your injuries through your medical records.
- Follow all recommended treatment: The insurance company will likely hesitate to pay you full damages if you do not follow the recommended course of treatment from your doctor. They will argue that your injuries became worse because you did not follow your doctor’s orders, and not because of the actions of their client.
- Locate witnesses: Eyewitness statements are taken very seriously by both insurance companies and the courts. Locate any witnesses immediately after an accident and ask for their contact information so your lawyer can contact them at a future date.
- Keep track of all losses: Keep a file of all receipts, invoices, and other documentation that clearly shows your losses. These are all important pieces of evidence that can help you during settlement talks.
Call MG Law Today For a Free Consultation
If you have been hurt in a crash, our lawyers at MG Law can effectively negotiate with the insurance company to help you secure a fair settlement. If necessary, we also have the trial experience that will give you the best chance of a favorable outcome in court.
Call us today or contact us online for a free consultation.