Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit
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Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit
While used interchangeably when talking about seeking compensation after a car accident, there is a fundamental difference between filing a claim and a lawsuit. A claim is asking for monetary compensation for medical and/or property damages from the at-fault driver. During this time, your attorney is determining how much insurance coverage is available and trying to negotiate a fair settlement with the defense.
As your car accident legal team, we will not accept a settlement that does not fairly represent the number of damages that you incurred. If we are unable to reach a compromise that is in your best interest, then our recommendation is to file a lawsuit. In comparison with a claim, a lawsuit is when the evidence is heard by a third party who will make the final decision for who is at fault and what, if any, amount of compensation should be awarded.
Either party may file a motion to have the claim heard in civil court. A date will be set, and the parties will decide if they want a jury trial or if they would prefer that the judge hear the evidence and make the final decision.
One component of the lawsuit process is discovery. This is the time in which both parties must make sure that they are sharing all of their evidence with each other. Documentation that the defense has that was not presented to our team in a reasonable amount of time before the trial cannot be presented as evidence. This protects both parties by allowing them the time to investigate all of the evidence that is going to be presented before the trial begins.
Once all evidence has been presented and any witness testimony heard, it is up to the jury or judge to decide on who was at fault for the accident. If they agree that your accident was caused by the defendant then they will proceed to determine how much his insurance company should have to pay you for your damages.
Missouri allows for comparative negligence. This is when they can see where both sides were responsible for the accident. In this case, a percentage of fault will be assigned to you, and that percentage will also be applied to your compensation amount. If you are found to hold 10% of the blame for the accident and decide to award $100,000, you will generally receive 90% of that amount, or $90,000.
A jury trial can be difficult to navigate and something both parties usually try and avoid. While you may fear comparative negligence, the defense fears punitive damages. These are applied by a jury when they feel that a defendant was grossly reckless in causing the accident. These types of awards can cost a defendant and his insurance company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Reaching a settlement with the defense is often the best solution for both parties. You want to try and avoid a costly lawsuit, and the defense wants to avoid a possible large award from a jury. Due to this, the importance of highly qualified legal representation cannot be stressed enough. Our team knows exactly what damages you have suffered and will fight to make sure that all are recognized by the defense.
Contact The Hoffmann Law Firm, L.L.C.
The process of filing a car accident claim has too many variables for you to consider going at it alone. Bring your claim to us and we will make sure that the defense is offering a settlement that recognizes all of the damages you have incurred, both past and present.
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How Often Do Car Accident Lawsuits Go to Trial?
If you have never been in a car accident before, you might imagine that they often go to trial. In reality, this is not necessarily the case. What usually happens after a car accident is that both drivers are somewhat reasonable and their lawyers have realistic expectations for compensation. The result is a settlement that is fair for both sides. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially since insurance companies are generally involved. If one of the members of this process is unreasonable, you may need your St. Louis car accident lawyer to fight for you in court. Below, we explain the frequency of lawsuits going to trial, why they sometimes do, and why they usually don’t.
As we mentioned above, only a relatively small number of St. Louis car accident lawsuits end up in a courtroom. Even upper estimates indicate that only one in twenty cases go to trial, meaning that they are infrequent.
Why You Might Go to Trial
Though the chance of you going to court is often low, there are a couple of situations where your lawyer might decide it is the best strategy going forward. They are:
An Unfair Offer – If an insurance company offers you an amount that you and your lawyer believe is unfair, your first step will be negotiating it. If that company refuses to budge on their offer, it may be best to go to trial.
Unclear Liability – Sometimes, there is a disagreement on whose fault the accident was. That could be due to a legitimate difference of opinion or one driver being untruthful. Either way, if both sides cannot agree on fault, the case will go to court.
Why It Is Rare
Nobody Wants a Trial – Going to court means putting in a lot of time, spending a significant sum of money, and going through an emotional roller coaster. Usually, every party involved understands this, so they do whatever they can to avoid court.
If going to trial for your car accident lawsuit sounds stressful, know that you are not alone. Usually, the goal of every party involved in a car accident wants to avoid a trial. That means you, the other driver, lawyers, and insurance companies will all do their best to settle your case without ever going to court. Still, sometimes your St. Louis car accident lawyer will decide that you need to go to trial to get the deal you deserve. In this case, you will be happy to have a seasoned legal professional fighting on your behalf.