If you're about to begin the process of filing your first personal injury case against another driver, chances are that you're feeling a little overwhelmed by what the future may hold. Understanding the major building blocks that make up a typical car accident case—and how you can get the most out of each one—can bring down your stress levels and help you prep.
Your initial consultation with a personal injury attorney is the first step toward creating a strong file. In addition to putting together a list of questions that covers everything from your attorney's fees to your expectations, bring all of your supporting documents, including insurance information, pictures of the accident, medical bills and lost income estimates. The more paperwork you have, the more you'll get out of your meeting and the more money you'll save on follow-ups.
Once your documents are in order and your lawyer has a good grasp of the best strategy in your case, he or she will file pleadings. That's legal speak for all of the pertinent documents that make up your lawsuit, starting with the complaint and ending with the defendant's answer or counterclaim.
This is where both parties will attempt to learn more about the facts of the case as well as each other. You may need to share private paperwork and make sworn statements. Because the defense has the right to any documents deemed relevant to the case—now including digital files—be prepared to hand them over. Holding back will only lengthen this already time-consuming process.
4. Settlement or Trial
Past discovery, your personal injury attorney will have a better idea of what you can expect as far as compensation. Depending on the defendant's case profile and actions, he or she may recommend settling or going to trial. Since trials can be stressful and unpredictable for everyone involved, car accident cases are usually settled out of court.
If you do decide to move on to trial, be sure that you understand how your earnings will affect your taxes, what percentage will go to your attorney's fees and what potential effect going to court will have on your professional and personal life. In especially difficult cases, it pays to consider a partial settlement—a negotiation tactic that can save you time and money by making the terms that you and the defendant do agree on official.
While car accident cases generally follow this outline, keep in mind that your experience will hinge on the exact details of your case. Your personal injury attorney (like those at Oot & Associates Law Offices) can elaborate on each of the points above based on the information you provide during your first meeting.