How to File a Lawsuit for a Car Accident in California

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If you were injured or lost a loved one because of another’s negligence, such as in a car accident, you might be able to file a claim against that person. To do so, you will need to file a lawsuit in court.

The process of filing a lawsuit can be complicated, and if you do not understand what is happening, it may feel like the legal system is against you. However, by understanding the process for filing a car accident claim in California, you can better protect your rights and prepare yourself for what will happen next.

Below, we have outlined each step of the lawsuit procedure in detail.

Step 1: Seeking Medical Treatment and Hiring a Lawyer

After a car accident, the most essential thing you can do is get prompt medical attention. Not only will you receive a quick diagnosis and treatment for your injuries, but they will also create a record of when and how you were injured. When you have a policy in place, and it is fully valid, this will be tremendously advantageous when filing a claim for your losses.

You can begin searching for a personal injury lawyer while you are receiving treatment for your injuries. An attorney can safeguard your rights and advise you on your claims options.

Personal injury claims in California have a two-year statute of limitations. That is, if you are injured in an auto accident while driving your car in Illinois, you have two years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit. As a result, it is important to hire a qualified personal lawyer as soon as possible after your accident.

Keep track of your medical expenditures throughout this period. Your lawyer will use them to compile a demand for money, as well as other evidence, such as lost earnings and information about reduced earning capacity.

Step 2: Initial Investigation 

When you choose a lawyer, they will immediately begin the process of looking into your accident. This may involve gathering and evaluating police records, witness statements, medical papers, and other evidence depending on the circumstances of your case. Your lawyer can even hire a private investigator to look for additional evidence or statements, such as security camera recordings.

Your lawyer will begin this process by performing legal research on your case. This will assist them in creating the most compelling argument possible as to why the other driver is accountable – and why you are owed the full amount of compensation for your losses (damages).

Step 3: Settlement Negotiations & Demand Letter

After gathering information throughout the investigation stage, your attorney will then write a demand letter to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. A demand letter explains the facts of the case, establishes why their insured is to blame under California law, and requests compensation. This usually begins the negotiation process, as the insurance company frequently responds with its settlement offer.

Most personal injury claims, which make up 97% of all cases, are resolved out of court. When you choose a car accident lawyer with a good track record and trial pedigree, your chances of reaching an amicable resolution without having to file a lawsuit improve. If the insurance company knows your lawyer is prepared, eager, and able to take your case to trial if necessary, they will be more inclined to settle your claim.

Lawsuit filed

Step 4: Lawsuit Filed

There are times when the insurance firm will refuse to compensate you a fair sum for your injuries. This happens when the policyholder or insurance company disputes responsibility for the accident or when your injuries are contested. If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, a lawsuit may be your best option.

The process of preparing for and pursuing a car accident lawsuit begins when you file your case. Your lawyer has a specific amount of time (1 to 2 months) after filing the case to serve the defendant. The defendant is given 30 days to respond after the lawsuit.

The legal process begins when a lawsuit is filed, and court deadlines are important. Your car accident lawyer will educate you on these restrictions and how they may influence the length of time it takes to resolve your injury claim.

Step 5: Discovery

The parties then move on to discovery, which is the stage of a legal case in which each side gathers information about the case. In many situations, however, discovery is defined as the process of detecting and locating information. Discovery can take many forms, including:

  • Interrogatories: written questions that the opposing party must respond to.
  • Requests for Admission: written statements from the other side that must be acknowledged or denied
  • Depositions: Oral questions asked under oath of a witness in a case to elicit information.
  • Defense Medical Examination: In the case of a personal injury, the insurance provider may request that you submit to an examination by a doctor of their choosing.

The procedure for discovering evidence varies considerably, depending on the circumstances of your case and the number of witnesses involved.

During this period, known as the pretrial stage of litigation, your attorney may also contact specialists to improve your case. If liability is an issue, your attorney may employ an accident reconstruction expert to show that you were not responsible for the crash. Each party must name their expert witnesses (if any) and be allowed to depose the other party’s expert witness(s) on both sides.

Step 6: Mediation

Settlement discussions are frequently prolonged throughout the pretrial phase. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the judge in charge of the case may demand mediation, which is a kind of alternative dispute resolution.

In mediation, a third party (usually a retired judge or an attorney with experience) examines the case and hears both sides’ arguments. The mediator then works to assist the parties in reaching a car accident compensation agreement. After a lawsuit has been filed, mediation generally occurs between nine and eighteen months later.

Step 7: Trial

If the parties cannot reach an agreement, a jury will decide their case. The trial length is determined by the number of witnesses and the intricacy of the issues in dispute. It can range from one to two days to two months.

The attorney for the defense will make an opening statement in court, followed by the lawyer for the plaintiff. After that, you will have the option to present evidence and call witnesses. The attorney will ask questions on direct examination, followed by a cross-examination from the defendant’s lawyer.

Following that, the defendant will have a chance to present evidence and witnesses. Your lawyer may cross-examine any witnesses for the defense. Finally, both parties will make a final presentation to the court or jury, in which they ask the judge or jury to rule in their favor.

The judge will read instructions to the jury regarding the legal aspects of the case after a jury trial has begun. The jury will then deliberate and render a decision. If the result is unfavorable, you may be able to appeal it in certain circumstances.

Finally, if you win at trial or reach a settlement during mediation, your claim will be paid out to you. This usually happens within 30 days of a judgment or settlement.

Bottom Line

Filing a lawsuit for an accident in California is not always easy. It can take time, patience, and money to get the compensation you deserve. However, you can help your case move through the litigation process with minimal interruption with the steps outlined above.

I hope this post has been helpful. Each of these steps requires the assistance and guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney, and I strongly recommend that you discuss your case with one before taking action.”