Suffering an injury from a car accident can be debilitating. Car accident victims may sometimes use the court system to seek damages for a personal injury claim and help pay high medical bills and other expenses. In New York, it’s vital to partner with an experienced car accident lawyer who can navigate the legal process for you and achieve a favorable outcome. The timeline for litigating and/or settling a car accident lawsuit varies and can range from six months to several years, depending on the individual circumstances.
Reasons You May Need a Car Accident Lawyer
In New York, car crash victims typically have only three years to file a claim or a lawsuit for personal injury. This deadline clock starts the day of the accident, although there are some exceptions such as municipal which has a much shorter deadline. You do not want to miss the statue of limitation deadline because your claim would be barred forever. Therefore, consulting a car accident attorney as soon as possible, will help you ensure there is enough time to still file a claim and make sure the necessary paperwork for your car accident claim gets filed in a timely fashion.
Car Accident Lawyer
If you have been in an accident and have an injury, you may think the process is straightforward. Even if you simply want to file a claim against an insurance company it may not be what you expect. Having an experienced New York auto accident attorney by your side can help you advocate for your rights and get fair compensation for your injury. Car accident victims may suffer from various serious injuries, such as broken bones, neck and back trauma, or traumatic brain injuries and some of these injuries can prove to be life changing. Whether you suffered from a minor car crash or a serious accident, our skilled lawyers can take on your case so you can focus on rehabilitation and healing after this harrowing event.
Finding the Right Lawyer
The first step in the civil lawsuit process for a car accident injury is to seek appropriate medical care right away. Some injuries may not show up right away. If you see a doctor after a car crash, they should be able to diagnose your injuries that you have suffered due to the accident and get you started on appropriate treatment.
Next, it is important to find an experienced personal injury attorney in New York who understands the litigation process. Look for a professional with experience in personal injury and settling or trying cases favorably. Meet with any attorneys you are interested in hiring and ask questions of their knowledge about insurance companies in individual injury cases. If your lawyer thinks you have a strong case, you typically move forward with the claim.
After you team up with a car accident lawyer, your attorney will begin investigating your case. You may also be required to file a claim with your insurance company. During the investigation phase, the insurance companies may also be researching what happened during your car accident. Documentation of the accident, your injuries, and your lifestyle changes after the injury are significant during this part of the process, as they may help to build a case in your favor.
More specifically, most motor vehicle accident victims provide photographs of the accident scene and/or damage to their car or the other parties car to support their claims. It may also be beneficial to have pictures of any severe injuries suffered from the accident. In addition, you should also provide documentation such as the police report for the accident, visits to medical providers for treatment after the incident, medical records, and information related to what if any lifestyle changes you may have endured due to the injuries sustained.
Filing the Lawsuit
New York is a “no-fault” state when it comes to car accidents and insurance companies. This means that the insurance company for the car you were driving will generally cover the medical expenses and lost wages, no matter who was at fault in the accident. It is important to contact a New York car injury attorney immediately to make sure there is valid insurance coverage on the car you are in at the time of the accident. If not, the skilled automobile injury attorney can advise you of other options that may exist. It is also possible to settle your case before the litigation begins with the other car’s insurance company. In other situations, the insurance company may be unwilling to compromise, or offer an amount that does not reflect the seriousness of the victim’s injury. It may be necessary for you and your lawyer to file a civil lawsuit to get fair compensation for your injuries.
Your lawyer will take care of the legal steps once the case goes to court. Attorneys start the process by filing a complaint in a New York court against the other driver, the owner of the car, and/or other responsible party.
The Initial Paperwork
Once your case is part of the New York court system, there can be a lot of legal paperwork involved. If you hire an attorney, your legal representative will take care of the filings and details. In a car accident court case, the injured person is typically the plaintiff and files the complaint against the defendant, which is usually the other driver and/or owner of the other car. Your lawyer will determine which part of the state has “jurisdiction” over the case and file your complaint accordingly.
The complaint then needs to be officially served to the other side. The defendant can then serve an answer and respond to the complaint with basically their side of the story regarding the accident.
The Discovery Process
The next part of the case is the discovery process. The discovery stage is the part of the case where both parties can learn more about the accident, your injuries, and any other important information that may be relevant to your car accident. The first step in the discovery process usually involves providing a Bill of Particular to the defendants. A bill of particulars is a document that provides more information about your car accident. Your attorney will prepare the Bill of Particulars and serve it to the attorneys that represent the defendant. Your lawyer will also submit requests for discovery to the other side. Then, the defendant has a deadline to respond to the discovery requests.
This information is vital so your lawyer can determine how strong your case is and what steps should be taken. The defendants will also submit their discovery requests to you and your lawyer as well.
Another important step in the discovery process is a deposition is the taking of depositions. A deposition is when a witness, such as the plaintiff or defendant, is asked questions under oath and the testimony is taken down by a court reporter. This is a way for the parties to learn what the other side will say at the time of trial. This is very beneficial to both sides because it allows both parties to adequately prepare for the upcoming trial.
Additionally, your lawyer will have to provide responses to discovery requests including providing HIPAA authorizations which allows the defendants to obtain copies of your medical records related to the treatment from the car accident. Sometimes, the evidence obtained during the discovery stage is enough to come to a resolution or settlement of the case. If the case isn’t resolved during this point, it can continue to move forward and proceed to trial. This timeline may take several months or longer depending on the complexity of the case, venue etc.
In some situations, the case may be heard by a mediator. If the two sides want to avoid a trial, meeting together with a skilled mediator may be helpful in resolving the case. In mediation, the two sides and their attorneys agree to meet with a neutral third party, a mediator, to help resolve issues in the case. This is a way to avoid the time and expense required to go to trial and may be beneficial if the two sides are close to a resolution and just need an impartial party to help “push” the case.
Another method in resolving the case is to propose a fair settlement. If the issue isn’t sent to a mediator or resolved right away, the lawyers can discuss and negotiate settlement terms. Most court cases are decided using this out-of-court method to avoid the cost of litigation, and/or to avoid the risks involved with going to trial.
If you have a severe injury and are thinking about a settlement, you should also consider the amount of time involved in extensive litigation. Cases that move forward to trial may go on for years, so settlement may be a better alternative for someone who wants a speedy resolution. During the settlement process, your lawyer may propose compensation and a solution. The other side may counter their proposal. The two sides may go back forth until they come to an agreement, of course with your approval.
If mediation isn’t successful and the two sides can’t agree to settle the case, it may move along to the litigation phase. This is the part of the process where the case goes to trial. The two parties will be assigned a trial date in the court where the lawsuit was filed.
When the lawyers start preparing for the trial, they will organize all the details about the case and the documentation. The court may require the two sides to attend settlement conferences, pre-trial hearings, conference scheduling meetings, and other appearances to prepare for their day in court.
At trial, both sides may present a variety of different types of evidence. When either lawyer submits a piece of evidence to support their claim, it is called an exhibit. Evidence must be presented to both sides ahead of time during the discovery phase of the case, which gives either side time to object, refute, or argue against it.
In a personal injury car accident case, the types of evidence presented during trial may include various items. Either side may submit photographs of the vehicles involved in the car accident, videos of the damage, pictures of any injuries, medical records, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and/or other radiology films, logs of doctor’s visits, medical expenses, police reports, or details of your work history. The plaintiff’s social media accounts may also be used as evidence in a personal injury lawsuit.
Witness testimony may also be part of a court case for a car accident injury. Before the trial, both sides must submit a list of witnesses to the other party with details about the person and their role in the case. Witnesses who were at the accident scene may be subpoenaed by either lawyer or compelled to testify during court. Some lawyers may also subpoena the police officer who responded to the accident to testify during the trial. Additionally, any doctors treating the patient may also be called to testify.
Expert testimony is critical to succeed in a car accident case because you must prove to the jury that you were injured as a result of the accident. Experts in the type of injury the plaintiff has may be asked to testify for either side. The lawyers must notify the other party about the expert witnesses who will testify and include details regarding the expert’s credentials as well as professional history.
A trial for a personal injury from a car accident may last a few days or a few weeks. At the end of the process, the jury or the judge will rule on the case.
A personal injury claim from a car accident may be a long, complicated process. Injured parties may also have a lot to handle during this time, such as medical procedures, missed work, lost wages, and stress. Car accident lawyers can help guide you through the New York Court process, so you get the resolution you desire.
The Sattler Law Group P.C. has successfully represented thousands of clients with personal injuries including motorcycle accidents, automobile crashes, pedestrian knockdowns, and other types of motor vehicle accidents in New York. If you want to learn more, contact the firm today for a free consultation and more information about how an experienced car accident attorney can help.