While most auto accident lawsuits are handled out of court through the at-fault driver’s insurance company, sometimes it becomes necessary to sue the other party via a lawsuit for damages from the auto accident.
This can happen when the insurer refuses to take responsibility for the damages or there is a failure to negotiate a settlement. Although the idea of going to court can be intimidating, there are ways to prepare that can make it easier. In many cases, simply understanding the process can help.
Filing the Court Papers to Sue the Other Party
The initial paperwork filed is usually the complaint (petition). This provides a basic outline of the case. It will usually indicate what type of accident occurred (such as head on, T-bone, rear end, etc.) and name the driver responsible.
Additional information may be provided that establishes why the other party is at fault, such as noting the person was speeding, intoxicated, failed to yield the right of way, or whatever the circumstances.
It will also include a demand for damages, these could address:
- The medical bills associated with the injuries sustained in the accident
- Income lost while recovering
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
Once the complaint has been submitted, the other side has an opportunity to respond. In many cases the defendant will not take responsibility for the accident and pay damages since the case has proceeded to this point. But the case can still be settled before going to court.
In fact, the parties may agree to mediation prior to litigation where a neutral third party works with both sides to come to an agreement. There are some benefits to this, with one being that it avoids litigation and the other is that it could provide at least some sort of resolution.
If unsuccessful, though, the case will likely proceed to court though negotiations may still continue to reach a settlement before trial.
Navigating the Discovery Process
Before going to court the discovery process takes place. This is when all the facts and documents are gathered and exchanged.
There are different ways of navigating the discovery process:
- Document production – can include producing documents to the other party. When a lawsuit has been filed, both sides have the right to see any paperwork, records, files or other items that are related to the case.
- Depositions – sworn statements (depositions) are another component of the discovery process. Attorneys may provide questions that the other party must answer.
- Interrogatories – these are written questions sent to the other party. Just as a deposition can be used as evidence at a trial, so can the answers to interrogatories. Generally this is a means of getting the other party’s version of the facts.
Getting Ready for Court
If you can’t reach a settlement, your case will head to trial. You’ll work with your lawyer prior to the court date to prepare for the experience. Your attorney can go over your testimony and help you prepare for questions that the other party’s attorney might ask you.
Be sure to dress professionally for your court date and arrive early. Makes sure you come prepared with copies of documents and other notes you’ve taken for the trial. Your attorney will also bring documents and other evidence necessary for the trial.
When the judge enters: stand. Take cues from your attorney regarding when to stand, sit, etc. During the trial, make sure you are attentive and courteous to others in the courtroom, including the other party.
Your attorney should provide other instructions to help you prepare for an auto accident lawsuit. If you’ve been injured in a car accident and wish to explore your options for suing the other party, talk to an attorney at Hensley Legal Group. Set up your consultation by calling (317) 472-3333 or contact us online.