April 28, 2021
When car accident claims can’t be settled through negotiations, they may go to court to be decided by a judge or jury. How often do car accident cases go to court? Not as often as you might think. Most car accident cases are settled with insurance companies or resolved in pre-trial mediation. Some studies say that as many as 95% of personal injury cases, which include car accidents, are resolved outside of the courtroom. The reason most don’t go to trial is because it is typically less expensive and less time consuming for the parties involved and their insurance companies to settle.
Sometimes agreement can’t be reached, however. A driver may deny that they caused the accident and even blame the other driver. Or the at-fault driver and their insurer might think the amount of compensation being sought is too high. When parties can’t agree, the only way to possibly get money for car accident injuries is through a trial.
If you’ve been in a wreck, knowing what to expect in a courtroom trial will help you be prepared.
What Happens in a Trial for a Car Accident Case?
In Texas, car accident cases that go to trial are decided by judges or juries. If you’re the one suing the other driver, you are called the “plaintiff.” The person you’re suing is called the “defendant.” Your attorney, if you have one — and it’s highly recommended that you do — will present all the evidence to the judge or the jury. The defendant’s attorney will present their own evidence and work to discredit yours. Eyewitnesses, police officers who responded to the accident, expert witnesses, and others may testify during the trial. Types of expert witnesses that might testify in car accident cases include traffic reconstruction experts, highway safety engineers, economists, medical doctors, and mental health professionals.
Taking the Witness Stand in Your Car Accident Lawsuit
Typically, you’ll also have to get on the stand when your case goes to trial. When you work with an experienced car accident lawyer, he or she will ensure that you are well-prepared to answer questions from both sides. Your attorney will ask you questions such as how the accident happened and how it has affected your health and well-being and overall life. Your testimony can help to establish fault and also show the judge or jury the extent of damages you suffered because of the negligent defendant. Damages determine the amount of compensation you ask for and include medical bills, lost income when you can’t work, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Once all the testimony and closing statements from both sides are complete, the case will go to the judge or jury to be decided.
One important thing to remember about going to trial is that you’re not guaranteed success. The judge or jury might not rule in your favor. If that happens, you have the right to appeal the decision, as does the defendant if the decision goes against them.
How Long Does a Court Hearing Last for a Car Accident?
There isn’t a single answer to that question. How long a car accident trial might last depends on several things. The seriousness of injuries, how many parties are involved, and the overall complexity of the accident are all factors. Car accident trials can last just a few days or a couple of weeks.
However, the entire process of heading to trial can take a year or more. Before actually going to court, the defendant has to be served with the complaint and given time to respond to it. Then the discovery phase takes place, which can take a few months to complete. Discovery is when the sides exchange evidence and interview witnesses. And after the court makes its decision, if either side files an appeal, that will delay the final outcome of a trial even more, sometimes for years. As you can see, even if you’re successful in winning an award for compensation, it can take years before you actually get the money.
On the other hand, through successful negotiations with the at-fault party and their insurance company following an injury crash, you could be compensated in just a couple of months.
What to Do Following a Car Accident to Help Your Claim
There are several things to do following a car crash that can help your claim, both in settlement negotiations or if your case goes to trial. They include the following:
- If you aren’t taken by first responders to the emergency room, see your doctor as soon as possible after the accident, even if you don’t feel like you were injured. Serious injuries can show up later on. Your medical records will be important evidence in your claim.
- Get contact information for the police officer who responds to your accident. Also, get a copy of the police report.
- If there are eyewitnesses to the crash, ask for written or recorded statements from them. If it isn’t practical at the scene to get statements, get contact information so you or your attorney can get statements later.
- Take photos or video of the cars and the accident scene, if possible.
- It’s also smart to keep a journal about your pain and injuries and how they have affected your day-to-day life.
Finally, get knowledgeable legal help. You stand a far greater chance of getting a fair settlement offer with the help of an attorney who knows how to negotiate and understands how insurance companies operate. And should your case go to trial, most people choose to hire a lawyer.
Contact an Experienced Houston Car Accident Lawyer for Help
When you’ve been in a crash, an experienced car accident lawyer from Waldman Legal can help you get the compensation you deserve. We know how to take on big insurance companies and get our clients fair settlements. And when claims can’t be resolved through negotiations, we fight hard for accident victims in court. Even though most cases don’t go to trial, we always thoroughly prepare as if we are going in front of a judge or jury. This preparation often convinces insurers to offer fair settlements, because they know we are ready to go all the way to court on behalf of our clients if necessary.
Don’t go it alone. Get seasoned legal representation by calling (713) 688-4878 today. We provide free consultations in car accident cases.