Car accident cases rarely make it to the trial phase. With the help of a personal injury attorney, many cases settle outside the courtroom. You can typically settle within a few months if you have a strong case with substantial evidence proving the other party’s negligence and the damages you suffered. It depends on the details of your case and how well you navigate the process.
When Do You Need To File a Lawsuit for Compensation After a Car Accident?
State laws mandate how you can access compensation following a car accident. For example, South Carolina uses a fault-based system that allows you to file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. The first step is to initiate the claims process and wait for a response from the insurer. Then, negotiations can begin.
Filing a lawsuit becomes a viable option if negotiating does not yield satisfactory results. However, be aware of the statute of limitations. In South Carolina, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. That same time limit applies if you only seek compensation for property damage.
Gathering evidence, consulting with legal professionals and understanding your rights early can significantly enhance your chances of securing fair compensation. Missing the statute of limitations deadline can forfeit your right to sue. However, a car accident lawyer can still help.
How Can a Car Accident Attorney Help You Negotiate a Fair Settlement?
An experienced car accident attorney will help you navigate the challenges of a personal injury claim. They play a pivotal role in ensuring you receive a settlement that adequately covers your losses. Important tasks an attorney will handle to speed up the process include:
- Assessing the worth of your claim by considering all available damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and property damage
- Investigating the accident to find sufficient evidence, including police reports and expert testimonies, proving the other driver’s negligence and liability
- Using the evidence to negotiate with the insurance company, ensuring they do not undervalue the claim or want to battle you in court
- Offering you informed advice at every stage of the claims process
Having an experienced attorney by your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your claim. Insurance companies sometimes resort to unsavory tactics to delay payment or reduce their responsibility. They often cooperate more effectively when dealing with a legal professional.
Why Might You Need To Go to Court?
Many factors can complicate a car accident claim and limit your ability to settle. While negotiations for a settlement can continue even after filing a lawsuit, some specific scenarios where proceeding to court becomes necessary include:
- Disputed liability. If the parties involved cannot agree on who is at fault for the accident, the court may need to determine liability.
- Inadequate settlement offer. If the insurance company’s offer does not adequately cover your damages, you may seek a higher compensation in court.
- Exceeding policy limits. You may need to sue if your damages surpass the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits.
- Denial of claim. If the insurance company denies your claim outright, taking the case to court might be the only way to pursue compensation.
- Statute of limitations. If you near the deadline to file a lawsuit with no settlement in sight, you may need to go to court to preserve your claim.
Taking a case to court can be a daunting task. Consulting with a qualified attorney ensures you enter with a well-prepared case.
What Happens if You Go to Court for a Car Accident Lawsuit?
The process begins with your attorney filing a complaint against the defendant, detailing the allegations and damages sought. Both parties then engage in discovery, exchanging evidence and information. Witnesses, including accident reconstruction experts and medical professionals, may testify.
The defendant can respond with their own evidence and claims. Once both sides present their case, the judge or jury deliberates on the facts. If you can prove the defendant’s liability, the court determines the compensation amount they must pay you. Should the defendant successfully defend their position, the court may dismiss the lawsuit.
When Should You Contact a Car Accident Attorney?
Seeking legal advice in the immediate aftermath of a car accident can only help your case. At Jeffcoat Law Firm PI, we often work on auto accident cases, helping victims and their families use the evidence available to reach a fast and fair settlement to rebuild without the hassle of a trial. Contact us to schedule your free consultation with an experienced attorney today.