You are entitled to be compensated for injuries you suffered in a car accident caused by a negligent driver. However, you may have to fight with his insurance company to receive what you deserve. This could involve filing a civil lawsuit, and it is important to have a basic understanding of what would happen in your court case.
Filing a Complaint
The first step in filing a lawsuit is to draft and file a complaint in court. It is crucial to retain an experienced car accident attorney to represent you in your lawsuit. Your complaint will explain how the other driver—referred to as the defendant—was negligent in causing your accident and the amount of compensation that you are entitled to receive. You must file your complaint within the statute of limitations, which is the time period you have to do so under Virginia law.
Serving the Defendant
Once the complaint is filed, you must have it served to the defendant so that he can respond to it. You must follow court rules on how it must be given to the negligent driver. This can include sending it by certified mail or hiring a process server to personally deliver it to him.
Answering the Complaint
The defendant has a certain amount of time, which is generally three to four weeks, to file his answer to the allegations in your complaint and can also raise any defenses to your claim in his answer. He will most likely have a lawyer, who is hired by his insurance company, file this pleading on his behalf.
Engaging in Discovery
Discovery is a lengthy stage of your lawsuit. It is the process of your lawyer and the attorney for the defendant exchanging documents and information about your case. Interrogatories, which are written questions that must be answered under oath, requests to produce documents, and depositions are common types of discovery used in car accident cases.
Conducting Settlement Negotiations
Your attorney will continue to try to settle your case while litigating it when he believes that it is productive. In addition, the judge assigned to your case may conduct settlement conferences or schedule your case for court-ordered mediation in an attempt to resolve it prior to trial. Most cases will be settled at this time in the litigation process before trial.
Attending Pre-Trial Hearings
The judge may schedule periodic pre-trial hearings so that the attorneys can update him on their progress in settling your case, completing discovery, and getting ready for trial. Pre-trial motions, such as to compel discovery, to change the judge or the court, or to dismiss your complaint, may also be heard at these hearings. Your attorney can often attend these hearings on your behalf.
Taking Your Case to Trial
If the insurance company will not pay you what you deserve, you will need to take your case to a jury trial. Here are the phases of a trial:
- Jury selection
- Opening statements by your lawyer and the attorney for the defendant
- Presentation of your case, which is where you present evidence and witness testimony to prove your case
- Presentation of the defendant’s case to refute your claim and raise his defenses
- Closing arguments by the defendant’s and your attorney
- Jury instructions by the judge informing the jury of the laws they must apply when deciding your case
- Jury deliberations
- Jury verdict
If you were injured in a car accident, our experienced car accident attorneys are here to file your claim and your lawsuit if this is necessary. We will aggressively fight so that you receive what you deserve in your settlement. Call our Norfolk office to schedule your free consultation today.