Although each car accident case is different, all of them follow a basic line of progression that involves certain steps and legal processes. The vast majority of car accident claims are settled out of court, and sometimes cases can be resolved quickly, while others may take much longer. Our car accident attorneys at Pepper & Odom, P.C. believe it’s important for clients to have a basic understanding of how the process works, how long it takes, and why your case may end up being litigated in court.
Immediately Following The Accident
After a car crash, it’s vital to call 911 and seek medical care as soon as possible. Medical records, police reports, photos, witness statements, and other documentation are valuable evidence that may be vital should you file a car accident injury claim. Although you should be polite to other drivers and police, don’t apologize or admit fault at the scene of an accident.
Filing Insurance Claims And Lawsuits
Before you file a claim with a negligent driver’s insurance company, contact an experienced car accident lawyer. Don’t speak to an insurance adjuster, sign any paperwork, or accept a settlement before speaking with a qualified attorney. You may also file a claim for damages with your own insurance company if you have collision and medical coverage on your policy.
Although you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, it’s best to have your lawyer negotiate a settlement with insurance companies before entering lengthy and often costly litigation in court. It’s essential to act fast after being injured in an accident, as the statutes of limitations for filing a car accident claim in Alabama is two years and three years in Mississippi. Filing a claim or lawsuit after these deadlines have passed typically results in a car accident case being thrown out.
The Car Accident Settlement Process
After your attorney has evaluated and accepted your case, the next step is to gather information and documentation to support your claim, including medical records, receipts for medical treatment, proof of lost wages, police reports, witness testimony, photographs, and video. Your attorney will determine the value of your claim and draft a demand letter to send to the insurance company. The demand letter contains information about your appeal, an explanation of your injuries, and the specific damages you wish to recover.
Investigation And Negotiation Of Your Claim
Once the insurance company receives your demand letter, they start an investigation of your car accident case and determine whether they will accept or deny your claim. If they agree to your request, they will make a settlement offer, which is likely on the low end of which you may be entitled. Your attorney will negotiate on your behalf until both parties agree. If the insurance company denies your claim, your attorney will appeal. If a fair settlement agreement cannot be reached, the next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit in the appropriate civil court.
Going To Trial
If the insurance company fails to offer a fair settlement, your attorney will file a civil lawsuit for damages. Before the trial begins, there’s a discovery period in which the opposing parties obtain further evidence from each other. The court may order both parties to enter an alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, to avoid going to trial. If intervention is ineffective, the car accident case goes to trial where evidence and testimony from the plaintiff and the defendant are heard.
After both sides have presented their cases, a judge or jury deliberates and reaches a verdict. It’s important to keep in mind that civil cases can be appealed, but once an out-of-court settlement with an insurance company is completed, the injured victim receives their award, and the claim is closed.
How Long Does A Car Accident Case Take?
There’s no set timeline when it comes to settling a car accident claim. Some cases are resolved in a matter of months, while others can drag on for years, especially if your case goes to court. Insurance companies often hold out and try to get injured victims to settle for a lesser amount because they know victims are hurt, possibly out of work, and need the money.
That’s why it’s critical to have a tenacious car accident attorney to be your advocate and protect your interests. They’re intimately familiar with the strategies that insurance companies often use to undervalue claims and fight to get injured victims the maximum compensation they deserve. Ultimately, most legal proceedings are settled without the victim ever having to step foot in a courtroom.
Contact Our Car Accident Lawyers To Learn More
Our personal injury lawyers at Pepper & Odom, P.C. can help you understand your rights and the legal processes involved in car accident claims. Contact us online or call our Birmingham, Alabama, office at 205-250-1107. You can also reach our Jackson, Mississippi office at 601-202-1111. We handle cases throughout Alabama, Mississippi, and nationwide, utilizing local counsel.