If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you might have a lot of questions. “How long will it take for me to heal?” “How much will the doctor’s visits cost?” “Should I file a lawsuit?”
You might worry about filing a lawsuit after a car accident. This is especially true if you don’t know a lot about courts or legal claims. Don’t worry. This post will give an overview of how personal injury cases work and explain the 13 steps in an Alabama car accident case.
Before we begin, remember: Every car crash case is unique. So every step listed here won’t happen in every case. Also, some steps might be repeated in some cases or happen in a different order. But generally, these are the steps in an Alabama car accident case.
Step 0 – Follow the proper steps at the accident scene
Before we get into the steps, remember that there are certain steps you should take after a car accident. These steps include:
- Getting the other driver’s contact info,
- Getting the names of any witnesses,
- Taking pictures of the accident scene, and
- Taking pictures of your accident injuries.
Do these things immediately after the car accident or as soon as you are able. Following this advice will help your injury claim and make it easier for your accident lawyer to build your case.
Step 1 – Hire an Alabama personal injury attorney
After you gather your evidence, you should contact a Birmingham injury lawyer as soon as you can. You may think you have time, but there are some good reasons why you shouldn’t wait.
First, after the accident, insurance adjusters will contact you. Their goal is to get information that will help them deny insurance claims. They will use anything you say as a reason to deny your claim. But an experienced accident attorney can keep you from saying something that will hurt your insurance claim or your personal injury lawsuit.
Second, all personal injury cases have to be filed by a certain deadline. (Lawyers call these “statutes of limitation.”) These limitations for filing are set by law and cannot be changed. Certain personal injury cases (like wrongful death cases) have special deadlines that happen fairly soon after the accident. Seeing a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible will protect your legal rights.
Step 2 – The investigation
After you hire an Alabama personal injury lawyer, they will get right to work. The first thing they will do is investigate your accident. They will gather information about the circumstances of your accident, your injuries, your medical bills, any lost wages, and much more. You’ll help by giving your accident lawyer the documents they need and answering any questions.
Step 3 – The demand
The investigation will help your Birmingham injury lawyer decide how much your personal injury case is worth. Once that happens, the lawyer will send a demand to the other driver’s team. The demand is a request for money that will compensate you for your injuries. The other driver can pay the settlement demand, make a counteroffer, or reject it completely. Your personal injury lawyer will negotiate with the other side to try to get a fair settlement.
Step 4 – Deciding whether to file a lawsuit
This is probably one of the trickiest steps in an Alabama car accident case. Your attorney will ask you lots of questions to help you make a decision. This list of questions might include things like
- How long will a car accident lawsuit take?
- How much is my car accident case worth?
- How does the current settlement offer compare to how much my case is worth?
- Does everyone agree about who caused the accident and why?
- Is the deadline to file the case close or far away?
- Is there a wrongful death claim?
Answering these questions will help you decide whether filing a lawsuit is right for you.
Step 5 – Filing a lawsuit
If you tell your car accident attorney that you’re ready to file a lawsuit, your lawyer will draft a special legal document called a complaint. The complaint explains how you (the plaintiff) were injured and why you believe that the other driver (the defendant) was responsible for your injuries. The complaint will also include a demand for damages. These damages are the money needed to cover the physical, financial, and emotional losses caused by the accident.
Step 6 – The other side answers
After you file your complaint, the defendant usually replies with a document called an answer. The defendant’s answer will admit or deny the facts in the complaint. The defendant can also use the answer to bring claims against you or other parties in the case. (For example, in a trucking accident case, there might be multiple defendants. If one of the trucking companies thinks that one is more responsible, they might sue them.)
Step 7 – Discovery
Lawyers need information to build cases. They get this information during a process called discovery.
During discovery, the plaintiff, the defendant, and their witnesses will answer questions under oath. The lawyers will use these answers to determine how well the facts support their case.
Step 8 – Motions
Technically, motions can be filed at any time during a personal injury lawsuit. But generally, lawyers file most of their motions after discovery. If the discovery responses show that the plaintiff’s case is weak, the defendant will probably file a motion that asks the court to dismiss the case. It may take the court a while to rule on your motion, so remember to be patient. Your injury attorney will keep you updated.
Step 9 – Negotiations
Like motions, negotiations can happen at any point in a personal injury case. But negotiations usually resume after discovery. Discovery reveals the strength of the other side’s case. With this new information, the parties will resume negotiations with a different perspective. The court’s decision on a motion can also spark a new round of negotiations. Your Alabama personal injury lawyer will guide you through the process.
Step 10 – Trial preparations
Trial preparation is one of the most crucial steps in an Alabama car accident case. Your lawyer will help you and any other witnesses prepare for court. Your car crash lawyer won’t tell you what to say, but they will let you know the types of questions you should expect. The lawyer will also answer questions about what to wear, how to behave, where to park, and much more.
Step 11 – The trial
A typical personal injury trial usually includes the following steps:
Jury selection. The court will bring in a group of potential jurors. Each side’s lawyer will question them about various things. The lawyers will ask the judge to strike jurors for various reasons. Eventually, 12 jurors will be selected. The jurors will decide questions of fact (“Was the light red or green?”) and the judge will decide legal questions.
Opening statements. Each side will take a few moments to give a short speech to the jury that explains their side of what happened during the crash.
Plaintiff’s case. Your lawyer will present evidence that shows you were injured and that the defendant caused your injuries. This evidence might be witnesses, documents, pictures, and anything else that helps your case.
Defendant’s case. The other driver’s lawyer will call their witnesses to prove why they shouldn’t be held responsible for the accident.
Closing arguments. Each side speaks to the jury a final time to tell them how they should interpret the evidence and testimony.
Jury instructions and deliberation. The judge will tell the jury about the legal rules that apply in the case. The jurors must follow them as they make their decision. The judge will then direct the jury to a private room to consider the facts and make their decision.
Step 12 – The verdict(s)
The jury will decide who was responsible for the accident and how much the plaintiff should get in damages. In some complex cases – such as trucking accidents – the jury will make two verdicts. The first verdict is a decision about who was responsible for the accident and the second verdict is about damages.
Step 13 – Appeals
There are several different types of courts. A trial court is at the lowest level. People who disagree with a trial judge’s decision or a jury’s verdict can ask a higher court to overturn the decision. This process – called an appeal – can take years. Fortunately, it is very difficult to overturn a jury’s verdict.
Want to know more about the steps in an Alabama car accident case?
Alabama personal injury lawsuits can be complicated. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand a bit more about how things work in car accident cases. If you have more questions about the steps in an Alabama car accident case, please don’t hesitate to contact Collins Law, LLC. Our firm handles injuries from trucking accidents, car accidents, and many other types of collisions. Our founder, April H. Collins, is widely regarded as one of Birmingham’s leading car accident injury lawyers. Call us at 205-588-1411 or use our website’s online scheduling tool. We’re ready to help you!