Car accident cases are typically settled without going to court, but it may be necessary to go to trial if the parties disagree on who was liable for the collision or if the two sides cannot agree on a settlement.
The Drivers May Disagree on Liability
When you are in a car accident, a police officer who responds to the scene of a crash may speak to you, your passengers, people in the other vehicle, and any other eyewitnesses. If all parties offer consistent accounts of the events that led up to the collision, and the other driver clearly violated a traffic law, that person will be found liable. The police officer will note that in the accident report and may issue a ticket or a warning to the driver who caused the crash.
The parties involved may offer differing accounts because of confusion. A car accident happens unexpectedly and quickly, and you may have seen or experienced something of which the other driver was unaware.
The person who was liable for the collision may lie or withhold information to avoid taking the blame. For instance, the driver who caused the crash may say that he or she did not see you make a turn but may fail to mention that he or she was texting and not looking at the road.
In those cases, an attorney may have to investigate to gather additional information to determine who was liable for the crash. A lawyer may interview people who were involved in the accident and eyewitnesses. They could possibly interview them more than once if there are discrepancies between their stories. An attorney may also obtain and review security footage from nearby traffic cameras and surveillance cameras at local businesses and homes.
If, after gathering additional information, the parties agree on who was liable for the crash, they could negotiate a settlement out of court. If the other driver still refuses to accept liability and blames you or some other person or circumstance, the case may have to go to trial.
The Insurance Company May Refuse to Agree to a Fair Settlement
Your car accident case may also have to go to court if the insurance company that represents the liable party for the collision refuses to agree to a settlement that your attorney believes is reasonable.
If you have been severely injured or disabled, you may need ongoing care. The costs for constant care at home or nursing home care can be staggering. You may also be unable to work and earn a living. Therefore, you may be entitled to compensation for lost income and lost earning capacity.
Even if both sides agree that you are eligible for compensation for those losses, they may be unable to agree on a dollar amount. It can be difficult to estimate future healthcare costs because it may be unclear exactly what types of care you will require or how much medical care may cost years in the future.
Attorneys may also disagree on how much money you would have likely earned if you had not been hurt in the car accident. If you make a partial recovery and could be able to work at some capacity, that can affect how much compensation you receive for lost income.
If You Decide to Sue
If you file a personal injury lawsuit and your car accident case goes to trial, a jury or judge will listen to the evidence from attorneys representing both sides. If there is a dispute about who was liable for the collision, the jury or judge will decide based on the evidence. If a judgment is rendered in your favor, a settlement will be awarded.
Taking a car accident case to trial can be a long and expensive process. Insurance companies may offer a low settlement because they may prefer to settle cases without going to trial.
Even if the defendant refused to admit liability or the insurance company offered a settlement that your attorney considered unreasonable, the circumstances of the case may change after you file a lawsuit. The other side may be willing to renegotiate and may make a larger offer to settle the case before it goes to court.
Statute of Limitations in California
Under California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) §335.1, you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. Make sure you file within that time frame. Otherwise, you risk losing your chance to pursue compensation.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
An insurance company may be reluctant to offer a fair settlement at first, so hiring an attorney may be helpful for not only filing a lawsuit but also obtaining financial awards. It may not be necessary to take your case to trial, but a law firm can do it to try to obtain a fair amount of compensation for your losses.
Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 223-5115 to discuss your case with a member of our team.