When many people think of car accident claims, they often picture a courtroom, with an injured victim sitting on the witness stand in a neck brace, telling their story to a jury. But while this might be a scene they’ve seen on television or read in a book, it’s not the reality for the vast majority of accident cases.
In fact, about 96 percent of all injury cases are settled out of court each year in the United States, leaving only four out of 100 decided by a court of law.
Still, there’s a small chance that your car accident case needs to go to court. In this article, we take a closer look at why some cases settle fairly, what happens if your case does go to court, and how our experienced car accident team at Max Meyers Law can help you through the process in both instances.
Why Do Some Injury Cases Go To Court?
First, let’s talk about the roughly 96 percent of cases that don’t go to court. In those instances, the injured party and their lawyer file a claim for damages with the insurance company (or companies) in question. During this process, both sides examine the case evidence and the insurer either approves or rejects the claim. Then, the party seeking damages can either accept or reject the offer of compensation. In most cases, after appeals, compromises, and negotiation, the parties come to a fair settlement.
However, there are a few cases in which a car accident and injury insurance claim could go to court:
- The insurance company rejects your claim, but you still believe you’re in the right.
- The insurer approves your claim, but you don’t the amount of compensation adequately covers all your accident-related losses.
- You and the insurance carrier ultimately cannot come to an agreement about your claim or its amount.
As with many other areas of life, such as a divorce or business dispute, if two parties cannot agree on an outcome, they go to court and have a judge and/or jury decide the case.
In this way, the decision is taken out of both party’s hands and given to the court system.
Pros And Cons of Going to Court for Your WA Car Accident Case
There’s a valid reason that most car accident and injury claims don’t go to court: both parties actively try to avoid the option. Why? Court proceedings lengthen the case timeline—sometimes significantly—and often take more resources than settling out of court. Going to court also means that there’s a chance that you could lose the case.
But there’s one big upside to the judicial process: you’re calling the insurance company’s bluff and fighting for what’s right. If you and your attorney are confident in the evidence in the case— and that the law is on your side—going to court may be the only way to get fair compensation if the at-fault party refuses to take responsibility or refuses to pay the correct amount.
In some cases, insurers decide to settle your case only after you prepare a claim for trial—all to avoid court.
All cases are different. It’s imperative that you and your car accident attorney decide if the claim settlement is unfair and that going to court is right for your circumstances.
Your Attorney Takes the Lead in Your Court Case
Many people feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of a courtroom and taking a case to court. While people are free to represent themselves in court, it’s far more advantageous to choose an attorney with extensive knowledge of how to present car accident cases before a judge and jury, and how insurance companies operate in court.
A savvy lawyer also takes the burden off of their clients when it comes to navigating the court system, collecting evidence, filing paperwork, and speaking with the judge and jury.
The Stages of a Car Accident Trial
If you and your attorney decide taking your car accident case to court is the best solution, the legal team first walks you through the entire process, then prepares you for any hearings and ensures that your story is told in full. Here’s how the process usually works.
Filing a Lawsuit
Your lawyer formally files a legal document—referred to as the complaint—outlining the case, the damages sought, and the legal grounds. Then the defendant is notified of the lawsuit and provided with a copy of the complaint.
Next, both parties exchange written questions to gather more information. Witnesses and parties involved may be interviewed under oath in depositions, while relevant documents and evidence are exchanged to support or challenge claims.
At this point, either party may request the court to rule in their favor based on the evidence, avoiding a full trial. In addition, either side may file motions to exclude or limit certain evidence during the trial.
Finally, the trial itself begins. First, if applicable, a jury is chosen from potential jurors, a group of your peers. Next, each side has the opportunity to argue their case, citing evidence and bringing witnesses to the stand in support of their claims. After all of the arguments are heard, the jury deliberates and reaches a decision.
Possible Post-Trial Actions
After a trial is over, either party may be able to file an appeal or even request a new trial if they can prove that either option is appropriate.
Having an Attorney at Your Side
When selecting a Seattle car accident attorney, asking about their courtroom experience, history, and case results during an initial consultation can help you choose the legal representation that’s right for you. You may also wish to ask a few more related questions:
- How often do you bring accident cases to court?
- What were the outcomes of cases similar to mine?
- How do you decide with a client whether or not to go to court?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses in court?
- How do you bill clients if a case goes to court?
Going to court for your accident claim is rare, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t understand all of your options and outcomes when choosing to work with an attorney. Our team is dedicated to seeing cases to their optimal outcome and keeping our clients educated, aware, and informed through every step of their case.