Understanding the Stages of a Car Accident Lawsuit
You’re driving along the road, jamming along to music and thinking about what you’ll have for dinner when you get home, when WHAM! Another car slams into the side of your vehicle. Luckily, you and the other driver are both okay. But after you file a police report and exchange insurance information, you know that the ramifications of your car wreck are far from over.
Days later, you overcome the shock of being in a car wreck and start to really think about what you’re going to do next. For some, this could mean trying to move on and get back to normal life. But for others, this could mean preparing to file an auto accident lawsuit in an attempt to receive fair compensation for property damage, injuries, and medical bills.
If you’re in the latter group, it’s time for you to understand what happens in car accident lawsuits, and what’s in store for you in the months to come.
Stage 1: Filing an Auto Accident Insurance Claim
When it comes to filing an auto accident lawsuit, it’s important to begin as soon as possible. After the crash, contact your car insurance company and file a claim concerning your accident. Your insurance agent will ask you a series of questions to better understand what happened. They’ll ask you if there were any injuries or property damage, and will collect information about the other driver and their auto insurance.
About Nevada Car Insurance Laws
Nevada is a fault state, which means that drivers can sue the other driver involved in an auto accident. Beginning in 2018, all drivers in the state are required to carry the following amounts of insurance coverage:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury or death
- $50,000 per accident for injury or death
- $20,000 for property damage
The above amounts cover property damage, medical expenses, and loss of income for the driver who is found to be not at fault in the accident. However, car insurance companies generally do not cover pain and suffering and other non-financial losses. Compensation for these types of losses may be recovered in personal injury lawsuits. Your auto accident attorney can give you more information about your best course of action.
Why File an Auto Accident Lawsuit?
There’s really only one reason to file an auto accident lawsuit—and that’s to receive financial compensation. Victims of auto accidents often file lawsuits if their insurance does not offer adequate financial settlement. If you don’t see the insurance company raising their offer, and you believe your case is worth significantly more than the settlement amount, it’s time to look into filing an auto accident lawsuit.
Stage 2: Filing an Auto Accident Lawsuit
If you were injured in a car accident and need compensation to cover your medical bills, filing a personal injury lawsuit—also known as a civil lawsuit or tort lawsuit—is often the best option. A Nevada auto accident attorney will work with you to gather the information needed to file a lawsuit quickly.
In the state of Nevada, the statute of limitations on filing an auto accident lawsuit is two years. That means that you have two years from the day of the auto accident to file your case. That may seem like plenty of time, but it can be easy to put off personal injury cases, or even to become caught in a confusing web of legal jargon and qualifications. It’s important to file your lawsuit as soon as possible to receive compensation quickly.
Plaintiffs and Defendants
When you file a personal injury auto accident lawsuit, you are alleging that you are entitled to financial compensation from the other driver. In legal terms, you are the plaintiff and the other driver is the defendant. Your auto accident lawyer will determine how much financial compensation to seek in the lawsuit, and that amount will be detailed in the initial complaint.
After your lawsuit is filed, the other driver’s insurance company has a certain amount of time to respond. They may accept the amount of proposed compensation, or they may offer up their own counterclaims to say that you were also at fault in the accident. They might also make a cross-claim, which is to say that another person, besides you and the defendant, were at fault. After you have received the other insurance company’s answer, you or your attorney also have a certain amount of time to respond to the counterclaims.
Stage 3: Preliminary Motions
Once you have filed your lawsuit, the defendant has the right to file preliminary motions if they wish to change some aspects of the case. These can include the following:
- Motion for change of venue: Assigns your case to a different courthouse
- Motion for removal: Moves your case to the federal court
- Motion for change of judge: Moves your case to a different courtroom
- Motion to dismiss: Dismisses and immediately ends your case if it is determined that it was filed late, the documents were served incorrectly, etc.
If your case was granted the first three motions, it will continue onto trial.
Stage 4: Mediation
After the preliminary motions stage, your judge will set a trial date. Because personal injury cases are often low priority, you might have to wait a year or longer until your day in court.
Until that happens, you will move into the mediation stage. During this phase, you and your attorneys will meet with the defendant and their attorneys for discussions moderated by a third party mediator. Mediation happens in the hopes of achieving some kind of agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant so that a trial is unnecessary.
Stage 5: Discovery
If the mediation stage is ineffective, you move into the discovery stage. During this stage, both teams of lawyers investigate the evidence and build up their cases. They might interview witnesses and collect relevant documents and photos. All of the information found during the discovery stage must be shared with both parties.
The discovery stage also includes a deposition, during which all parties are present as lawyers interview witnesses, both drivers, and other people involved in order to find out as much information as possible. All of the information discovered in this phase can be used as evidence during the trial.
If you and your auto accident attorney believe that enough information has been found in the discovery phase to support your case, they can ask for a motion for summary judgment. This would mean that the judge would make a decision without a formal trial. Once they review your case, they can either make a ruling or determine that a trial is needed.
Stage 6: The Trial
In this stage, there are usually two different options: a bench trial, or a trial only heard by a judge; and a jury trial, which is heard by a jury of your peers. It is very rare that auto accident lawsuits make it all the way to trial, as many are settled somewhere along the way. But if it does go to trial, it is usually quick. The judge will determine the verdict, and the case gets resolved or dismissed.
How to Get Legal Assistance
If you or someone you know were involved in an auto accident, you might be thinking about filing an auto accident lawsuit. The process can be extremely complicated and time-consuming, and it’s important that you have someone on your side from start to finish.
The Nevada auto accident attorneys at Shook & Stone are well-versed in car wreck lawsuits. Since 1997, our team of personal injury lawyers has helped people across Las Vegas, Reno, Henderson, and other parts of Nevada recover over half a billion dollars in compensation. Contact Shook & Stone today for a free initial consultation or call us directly at (702) 570-0000.