What are the three “phases” of a car accident claim?
Although every case is different, with different facts, different legal issues, different insurance adjusters, and different insurance defense attorneys, the phases of a car accident claim remain the same from case to case.
Some cases settle quickly, ending in the pre-litigation phase. When the at-fault driver’s insurance company refuses to pay the full and fair value of your car accident claim, however, some cases must go through the process to a jury trial and possibly an appeal.
In this article, you will learn:
- The three phases of a car accident claim in NC,
- What happens before you file a lawsuit,
- What happens after you file a lawsuit, and
- The process of trying a car accident claim in NC courts.
Car Accident Claims: 3 Phases
Before your attorney files a lawsuit suing the at-fault driver, we must go through a “pre-litigation phase” of your car accident claim where we gather information and the evidence we will need to prove both liability and damages to an insurance adjuster or to a jury.
Do I Hire an Attorney?
Should you hire an attorney for your car accident claim?
If you want to get paid the full and fair value of your claim – or, in many cases, if you want to get paid at all, you should hire an experienced NC car accident lawyer to handle your case and to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
- The insurance adjuster will deny or limit your claim, taking advantage of the fact that you do not have an attorney to advise you on what the law says and what damages you are entitled to.
- If you file a lawsuit, the insurance company will hire an insurance defense law firm whose attorneys will not give a second thought to denying your recovery by taking advantage of your inexperience and lack of knowledge. Their job is to save their client money by denying your recovery, period.
The first thing your attorney will do is meet with you to learn about your case – we will come to you if you are hospitalized or unable to travel due to your injuries.
Then, we begin the process of gathering the evidence that we will need to prove liability and damages in your case – the accident report, witness statements, medical records, and medical bills, for example.
If you have finished treating for your injuries, or when we are able to get an expert medical opinion regarding your future medical expenses, we will calculate the full amount of damages that you are entitled to, including your current and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and all other categories of damages based on the facts of your case.
Negotiations And Settlement
In many cases, we will send a demand letter to the insurance adjuster before a lawsuit is filed. If, based on the documentation we provide to them, they are willing to pay the full and fair value of your settlement, we may advise you to accept an offer to settle before we file suit.
If they do not offer to pay the full pre-lawsuit value of your claim, however, we will file a lawsuit on your behalf and begin preparing for trial.
What happens when the insurance company does not pay your claim?
In many cases, they will not pay your claim, even when you have an attorney, without first being served with a lawsuit and then preparing for trial.
The insurance company may want to hear from the potential witnesses, review all evidence in the case, and get an opinion from their attorneys before paying the full value of your claim. Remember, they are looking for any way to shut you down and not pay your claim whenever possible.
It is important to note that only 10% of our cases end up in litigation. The vast majority are settled in the pre-litigation phase.
File A Lawsuit And Prepare For Trial
After preparing your lawsuit with your specific causes of action (negligence, for example, or wrongful death) and a statement of the facts that support your causes of action, it must be served on the defendant.
After the lawsuit is served, the defense will file their Answer, and we will file a Reply if there are any counterclaims. There may be several other motions that are filed throughout the course of the case and that must be argued in court, including motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, and motions that are related to discovery.
Settlement Negotiations Continue
Once we file a lawsuit, we do not stop negotiating. Your case could be settled during any phase of your car accident claim, whether it is in response to our initial demand letter, during mediation, or while your case is on appeal after trial.
After the initial pleadings (Complaint, Answer, and Reply) have been filed, we will enter the discovery phase of your car accident claim where, in addition to the evidence we have collected in our own investigation, we get information from the other side with the court’s assistance.
This could include:
- Interrogatories: we may send written questions to the other side, and they are required to answer them under oath,
- Requests to Produce: we may send written requests for the other side to produce evidence in their possession, including documents, video, photos, or other things that may be relevant to the claims or defenses in your case,
- Requests to Admit: we may send written “requests to admit” to the other side – stating a fact that is true and requiring them to admit to it or deny it under oath, and
- Depositions: we may take depositions of witnesses in your case, requiring them to submit to questioning in-person and under oath with a court reporter present.
Both sides are entitled to discovery – you may be required to answer interrogatories, requests to produce, and requests to admit from the other side. You and your witnesses may also be required to testify in depositions that are called by the other side as well.
3. Trial And Appeal
The final phase of a car accident claim is the jury trial and appeals. Most car accident claims do not make it to trial, but every car accident claim must be prepared for trial.
- If you are not prepared for trial, or if the defense lawyers do not think you are willing or able to take your case to trial and win, they will not offer to pay the full and fair value of your case in settlement.
- The possibilities at trial are the factors that drive any settlement – if you have a strong case and we can show that after preparing for trial, the defense is more likely to offer a fair settlement before trial begins. If you have issues with liability or proving your damages, however, that is something you need to know before your attorney picks a jury.
Either side can appeal to the Court of Appeals if the trial court made any legal mistakes during the trial.
If you receive a verdict and the defense does not appeal, the insurance company may write you a check, or you may have to enforce the verdict and use the judgment to collect from the defendant’s assets.
If you receive a verdict and the defense appeals, you will have to defend the appeal in the appellate court, although the case can still be settled while the appeal is pending.
If the defense receives a verdict, you have the option to file an appeal if the trial court made mistakes that would require reversal and a retrial.
Questions About The Phases Of A Car Accident Claim?
Your NC car accident lawyer will help you to understand the phases of your car accident claim, including how to prepare for negotiations, what to do during the litigation phase of your car accident claim, and when your case should go to trial.
If you have been in a car wreck that was caused by someone else’s negligence, do not lose hope! Call Northstate Auto Law now at 336-781-4606 or send us a message through our website to talk to an attorney who cares.