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What is the Process for a Car Accident Lawsuit?

February 6, 2023

It can be difficult to get back on your feet after a car accident, both physically and financially. Medical expenses, missed days of work, and the hassle of dealing with your damaged property while trying to recover from your injuries make the days and weeks following an accident a distressing time—especially when the accident occurred due to someone else’s fault. By filing an accident claim, you could be taking the first steps toward recovering your physical and economic health so you can focus on healing.

When you’re harmed in a car accident due to a mistake, recklessness, or wrongdoing by another driver, you deserve compensation for the damages you suffer as a result. It helps if you understand the process of a car accident lawsuit and how a Seattle car accident attorney can benefit you.

What is the Process for a Car Accident Lawsuit?

What to Do After Your Car Accident

Once the dust clears after an accident, your physical and financial future could depend on what you do next. By keeping a clear head, you can help your recovery in several important ways. If you’ve been seriously injured, you should remain immobile and wait for emergency services to help you. If you’re able to move safely, then it’s best to move out of the flow of traffic to the shoulder of the road. While you wait for help, do the following if you’re able:

  • Call 911 to report the accident and your location
  • Give reasonable aid and comfort to any other injured victims
  • Use your phone to take pictures of the damaged vehicles, accident scene, and any relevant factors such as road signs or traffic signals
  • Collect contact information for other drivers and any eyewitnesses to the accident
  • Accept transportation to a hospital and have a thorough evaluation, telling the doctor about all of your injuries and every symptom
  • Ask for a detailed copy of the doctor’s report with your prognosis and required treatment included and then follow every recommendation
  • Obtain a copy of the accident report from the police
  • Call an accident attorney before speaking to insurance representatives

Once you have the accident report and evidence of your physical and economic damages, you’re ready to file a car accident lawsuit. In the majority of cases, insurance providers settle out of court, especially when you have detailed and well-organized evidence of your physical and economic damages from the accident. By having a personal injury attorney on your side and evidence supporting your claim, you can counteract the insurance company’s unfortunately common attempts to deny claims completely or offer unreasonably low settlements.

Drafting a Demand Letter

Once you’ve had an initial meeting with a reputable and experienced t attorney, the attorney will review your evidence and collect any further evidence needed to craft a compelling case. Additional evidence may include:

  • Traffic camera or dash-cam footage
  • Eyewitness depositions
  • An accident reconstruction report from an expert
  • Medical expert report detailing the short and long-term impacts of your injury
  • Testimonials from family members and others about the impact of the accident on your life

An attorney then uses the evidence to show liability on the part of the at-fault person by proving the following points:

  • That the at-fault party owed a duty of care to keep others on the road safe by following traffic laws, avoiding distraction, and driving in a safe, reasonable manner
  • That the person at fault for the car accident breached their duty of care and that the breach directly caused injury
  • That the plaintiff’s injury led to economic and non-economic damages

Once this process is complete, an attorney uses the evidence to compose a detailed demand letter stating the amount of compensation you expect to receive from the insurance company of the liable party.

Negotiating a Settlement

Once an insurance company receives a demand letter, they’ll typically engage in negotiations with you and your lawyer using a claims adjuster. Negotiations may go back and forth, but an attorney understands the common tactics insurance companies use to deny or lowball settlements and how to counteract them with strong arguments and evidence. The vast majority of car accident claims are settled out of court, but If both parties can’t come to an agreement, the attorney takes the next step and files a lawsuit.

Car Accident Lawsuits in Washington

If your case cannot be settled with an acceptable amount, your attorney files a complaint and arranges to have a copy of the complaint served to the defendant. Car accident victims have up to 3 years to file a car accident complaint according to Washington’s statute of limitations. The defendant must respond to the complaint in a timely manner. After the response, the case moves into the discovery period where both parties review all evidence from both parties in the lawsuit and wait for a trial date.

At the trial, both sides prevent evidence and testimony for the jury who then decides on a verdict and court award of the amount they decide is fair for the plaintiff. The insurance company must pay out the amount of the award. A plaintiff has the right to file an appeal if they aren’t satisfied with the result of the trial.

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