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Author: Barry Hanson

Stages of a Car Accident Lawsuit

Stages of a Car Accident Lawsuit

When you are involved in a car accident, the immediate aftermath can be painful, contentious, and often confusing. If you sustain an injury as a result of that accident, what you say and do during those first few moments can have a profound impact on your ability to seek damages for your injuries in the event that the other driver is at fault. Therefore, it is important to remain as calm as possible following an accident, while at the same time collecting as much information as you can without divulging more than you need to.

The cardinal rule to follow immediately after an accident is never admitting fault. Do not admit fault for the accident to the other driver, your passengers, the police, any witnesses, or your insurance agent. Your perception of what happened may be altered by the emotionality of the event, therefore admitting fault may inadvertently pigeonhole you into accepting responsibility for something that is actually not your fault. Next, seek immediate medical attention for your injuries so that their existence and severity can be documented as soon as possible. Also be sure to take detailed notes of all aspects related to your treatment, including the names and contact information of anyone involved (i.e., physician, therapists, pharmacist, etc.). Additionally, if you have visible injuries – such as cuts, bruises, or scrapes – take pictures of them immediately. Outward injuries that heal quickly are difficult to document, so you will want the photographic evidence on your side in the event you seek damages for them. You will also want to obtain a copy of the police report from your accident. Review it and check for accuracy in the facts, making note of any errors or omissions. Finally, you may wish to consult a personal injury attorney who has experience with car accident cases. Even if you have decided not to pursue damages for your injuries, you will certainly want to consult a personal injury attorney in the event that you are asked to sign papers or pre-written statements prepared by the other driver or their insurance company. Signing such documents unadvised can be detrimental to your rights.

personal injury law - car accident attorneys

Personal Injury

If you do choose to file a claim against someone for injuries sustained as a result of a car accident, there are multiple stages involved in pursuing such lawsuits. However, the first thing you must do is contact a qualified, experienced personal injury attorney. Initial consultations are almost always free, and allow you the opportunity to describe what happened to the attorney and solicit their opinion as to the merit of your claim. At this meeting, the attorney will want you to describe what happened during the accident. Next, he or she will likely ask you questions pertaining to your medical treatment, other individuals who were involved in the accident, or potential witnesses. They may also ask if you have been in contact with your insurance company and if so, the nature of that contact and any information you provided to them. At this time, the attorney may state that your case is meritorious and convey their interest in representing you, or they may refer you to another attorney who could potentially better serve your needs. The possibility also exists that the attorney may decline to take your case. More on this website

In the event that he or she decides to take your case, and you decide to hire them to represent you, the next step will include a discussion of the logistics of your case, including a representation agreement, the different types of legal fees, and other expenses that you will incur, and an estimate of the costs associated with your case. The attorney will advise you regarding the next steps of your case, and you may also be asked to sign a form that allows your attorney to receive your medical records. Most experienced and knowledgeable attorneys will also advise you at this early meeting to refrain from discussing the details of your case with others, and instruct you to refer questions to them.

Stage One – Pleadings

If you decide to move forward with your case, the first stage involves filing the initial court papers, known as pleadings. The first of these that is usually filed is the complaint (or petition), which identifies the parties involved, establishes the legal basis for the court’s involvement, states your claims as the plaintiff, and describes the facts that relate to the claims. Also in the complaint will be a demand for judgment or a prayer for relief, which sets forth what you want the court to require the defendant to do, such as pay monetary damages. Next, the court issues a summons, which notifies the defendant that he or she is being sued, refers them to the complaint, and sets a time frame within which they must answer the charges or ask to have the case dismissed. The defendant’s response to the complaint is called an answer, and in this document, the defendant will respond to each paragraph, either admitting or denying each individual charge. More on this website

Stage Two – Discovery

A unique aspect of the United States judicial system is the requirement that all parties disclose the relevant facts and documents to each other prior to trial. This process is known as discovery. There are three types of discovery: written discovery, document production, and depositions. Written discovery allows both sides to question each other, and allows each party to ask the other to admit or deny specific facts essential to the case. During document production, each party is given access to almost every document that is relevant to the case, including computer files. Finally, depositions are sworn statements obtained when a person responds to an attorney’s questions under oath, in the presence of a court reporter (who creates a transcript). During a deposition, it is important to state only the facts that you know, as well as to refrain from providing extraneous information. In order for the discovery stage to work to your advantage, it is important to be truthful and forthcoming with your attorney and others involved and to understand and accept that this process will be time-consuming, expensive, and uncomfortable at times.

Stage Three – Motions

Motions are requests filed with the court by your lawyer, in which he or she asks for the court to rule on a specific matter pertaining to the case. These pre-trial motions can often help to resolve many questions pertaining to a particular lawsuit, and depending on the nature of the motion and ruling, they can even terminate a case prior to it ever going to trial. There are numerous motions that an attorney can file. Motions to dismiss are generally brought forth early in the case, sometimes even before the discovery stage, and are filed when the defendant believes that the complaint is somehow deficient from a legal perspective. Summary judgment motions are made when the central facts surrounding the case are not in dispute, necessitating that judgment be entered for one of the parties involved. Essentially, this kind of motion asks the court to consider the facts, apply the law, and argues that the court issue a judgment in favor of the party that files the summary judgment motion.

Stage Four – Settlement

In reality, a vast majority of personal injury legal claims never reach a courtroom; most are resolved through a settlement. In a settlement, the plaintiff agrees to give up their right to pursue legal action in exchange for the payment of an agreed amount from either the defendant or his or her insurance company. Settlements can be tempting to consider, but may not always be in the best interest of the plaintiff, especially in the event that they have a solid case or suffered a significant injury. As such, if you are considering settling a legal claim after sustaining a car accident-related injury, be sure and discuss the matter thoroughly with your attorney and get their perspective on the matter. There are multiple aspects of settlements that you need to consider, including your attorney’s assessment of your case’s potential worth; verdicts, and settlements from similar cases that may have set a financial precedent of sorts; practical difficulties that might arise if your case goes to trial; possible limits on the defendant’s insurance coverage; the defendant’s ability and available resources to pay a settlement; known negotiating tactics and approach of defendant’s counsel; and how a settlement will affect your attorney fees, expenses, and income taxes.personal injury lawyers

Stage Five – Trial

For most personal injury trials, regardless of what caused the injury, the basic structure of a trial will be the same. Jury selection will be followed by opening statements, which are made by each lead attorney on behalf of the plaintiff and the defendant. In the plaintiff’s opening statement, their attorney will present the facts pertaining to the accident and the injury, and describe the alleged role of the defendant in causing the damages. The opening statement by the defendant’s attorney will provide the defense’s interpretation of the facts and lays the groundwork for the rebuttal of the evidence that will be presented. Next, witnesses will provide testimony and will then be cross-examined by opposing counsel. Once both sides have presented their evidence and contested the evidence presented by the other side, both sides will “rest” their case. Closing arguments then follow and offer an opportunity for each side to summarize their perspective on the case. The jury will receive instructions from the judge, which outline the legal standards that pertain to the case, and instruct the jury on how those standards must be applied when considering the evidence. Finally, the jury will deliberate on the evidence and return with a verdict, either in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant.

Final Stage – Awards or Appeal

Even if a jury awards damages, it is not always easy to obtain the money. If the debtor is capable of paying the award, they typically will do so in order to avoid additional expenses and collection proceedings. However, in the event that the debtor is unable or unwilling to pay the award, it can be quite difficult to ever obtain those funds. Depending on the circumstances, additional litigation may be needed in order to gain a better understanding of the nature of the debtor’s finances, or wage garnishment may have to be pursued. In the unfortunate event that a debtor files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, an individual’s ability to recoup their judgment award is essentially gone, like that of other creditors. Finally, if the judgment is appealed by the losing party, payment of damages may be further delayed until the appeals process is complete.

Thinking About Filing For Bankruptcy?

Claiming Bankruptcy

The Form 22 “means test” is one of the most complicated documents in bankruptcy. Form 22 determines how much, if any, debtors can afford to repay to their creditors after they have decided to claim bankruptcy. If the debtors’ income is under the median for their household size, calculation of Form 22 is not required. Debtors are also exempt from Form 22 if the majority of their debt is non-consumer debt. In those situations, the repayment is determined by their monthly income and reasonable monthly expenses, without consulting Form 22.If a debtor’s gross income is above the median, the Form 22 Means Test must be computed. Form 22 is complicated and very difficult to compute without a working knowledge of how the form works. Generally speaking, Form 22 objectively determines if and how much debtors can afford to repay their creditors. Recent changes in income, large tax refunds, earned income tax credits, and high mortgage and property tax expenses can cause difficulties in calculating Form 22.bankruptcy attorneys san antonio

This calculation is complex and should be left to a bankruptcy lawyer. Form 22 generates two numbers. The first number is the debtor’s average gross income over the last six full calendar months. Gross income is determined by one’s paycheck, business profit/loss for self-employed debtors, rental income, unemployment benefits, retirement benefits, and generally almost every other source of income. The second number is the allowed deductions. The allowed deductions are based on household size and determined in part by the IRS national standards for household utilities, food, clothing, household supplies, personal care, and the like. They also include deductions for the following items: For more information about Bankruptcy Attorneys San Antonio click here

Mortgage payments and property taxes (if greater than the standard rent allowance).
Healthcare expenses, such as co-pays and prescription costs.
Cost of operation for vehicles, public transportation costs, and an allowance for car payments.
Payroll taxes and involuntary payroll deductions like union dues.
Term life insurance for dependents.
Court order payments (typically the child and spousal support).
Educational expenses for a physically or mentally challenged child.
Childcare expenses, such as babysitting and daycare.
Health insurance, disability insurance, and healthcare savings account.
Support of elderly or disabled individuals.
Some educational expenses for children under 18.

Once the calculation is completed, the difference between the income and deductions must be repaid to GUC over the course of five years. For example, if the gross income averages $5,000 per month and the allowed deductions total $4,700 per month, then the creditors must receive a total of $18,000 ($300 x 60 months). For assistance with the means test, seek proper bankruptcy advice.

Accident Attorneys – Personal Injury Law

Accident Attorneys – Personal Injury Law

At the very least, accidents are traumatic. So much is happening and there is so much you need to do. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) hopes this information will help you. Keep this information in your vehicle just in case you find yourself in an accident.

personal injury law

Man fastening seat belt in car

Were You Wearing Seat Belts?

Most drivers, no matter how carefully they drive, will be involved in at least one traffic accident during their lifetime. The chances of being injured or killed are greater than you might think. About one person in three will be injured or killed in a traffic accident. The best thing to increase your chances of surviving is to always use seat belts. Remember, you must wear both your lap and shoulder belt if the vehicle is equipped with both, even if the vehicle is equipped with airbags.

You and any passenger age six or older or who weighs 60 lbs. or more must wear a seat belt while the car is moving. If not, you may be given a traffic ticket. Also, you will be given the ticket if your passenger is younger than 16. A child passenger restraint system is required for any child under the age of six or who weighs under 60 lbs. Either a seat belt or a child passenger restraint system may be used for each person age six or older or who weighs 60 lbs. or more. 

Here are some additional tips for using a child safety seat:
The back seat is generally the safest place in the car for children 12 years old or younger. 
Babies up to 20 lbs. and about age one should ride in a safety seat secured to the back seat facing the rear of the car. Babies should not be placed facing forward or backward in the front passenger seat if the vehicle has a passenger-side airbag. 
Toddlers over 20 lbs. and about age one should ride in an approved safety seat in the back seat.

Common Causes of Accidents

Some of the common causes of accidents are:

Unsafe speed 
Driving on the wrong side of the road 
Improper turns 
Violation of the right-of-way rules 
Violation of stop signals and signs 
Numbered Traffic Lanes

When news stations report accidents, they refer to numbered traffic lanes. The left lane is the “No.1 lane.” The lane to the right of the No.1 lane is the No.2 lane, then the No.3 lane, etc. Here is an example.

If you hear of an accident, try to avoid driving near the accident. Take another route, if you can. If you must drive near an accident scene, do not slow down or stop to look–you may cause another collision. However, drive carefully and watch for people in the road. Always obey any order from a police officer or fire fighter even if you must ignore normal traffic laws or signs.personal injury law

When You See An Accident

If you are the first person at an accident scene, pull completely off the road, away from the accident. Emergency personnel must be able to see the accident and stop next to it for easy access to injured persons. Check to see if anyone is injured. Also, search the area for victims who may have been thrown from a vehicle. They may be hidden in grass or bushes. 
Call 9-1-1. If another person stops to help, ask that person to call 9-1-1. The person calling 9-1-1 must be ready to answer questions and provide information, such as the location of the emergency (cross streets, freeway on/off ramp information) and how many people need help (is anyone bleeding, unconscious, or without a pulse). Don’t hang up! Let the emergency dispatcher hang up first. 
If possible, use flares or emergency triangles. However, if there is a gasoline leak or fumes do not use the flares and don’t smoke! 
Help anyone who is not already walking and talking. However, do not move an injured person unless he or she is in a burning vehicle or in other danger. Moving someone incorrectly often makes an injury worse. 
Move the vehicle(s) involved out of the traffic lane if it is not disabled. Turn off the ignition of wrecked autos. Again, don’t smoke! Fire is a great danger. 

Involved In An Accident?

If you are involved in an accident—STOP. If you don’t stop, you may be convicted of “hit and run” and could be severely punished. Also, someone could be injured and need your help. You must show your driver’s license, registration card, evidence of financial responsibility, and current address to the other driver or persons involved, or to any peace officer. If your evidence of financial responsibility is insurance, you must provide the company name and address as well as the policy number to avoid a citation and $250 fine.

You or your insurance agent, broker, or legal representative must make the following reports:

If someone is killed or injured, report the accident to the police or highway patrol within 24 hours of the accident.

 
Also, report the accident to the DMV, if there is more than $750 in damage to the property of any person, or anyone is injured (no matter how slightly) or killed. The accident report form (SR 1) is available at DMV or highway patrol offices. The SR 1 report is required in addition to any other report made to the police, highway patrol, or your insurance company. 
If you hit a parked vehicle or other property, try to find the owner. Identify yourself before you leave. If you can’t find the owner, leave a note with your name and address (and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle you are driving) in the vehicle or securely attached to it. Report the accident without delay to the city police or, in unincorporated areas, to the highway patrol. 
If you kill or injure an animal, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Try to find the owner. If you can’t find the owner, call the nearest humane society or call the police or highway patrol. Do not try to move an injured animal and never leave an injured animal to die. 

How Much Insurance?

You must be financially responsible for your actions whenever you drive and for all motor vehicles you own. If not, you are driving illegally. Most drivers choose to have an automobile liability insurance policy as proof of financial responsibility. If you have an accident not covered by your insurance, your license will be suspended. If the driver is not identified, the owner of the motor vehicle involved will have his or her license suspended.

The minimum amount your insurance must cover is:

$30,000 for a single death or injury. 
$60,000 for death or injury to more than one person. 
$25,000 for property damage caused by one accident.
 

DMV Accident Reporting

Each driver or the driver’s insurance agent, broker, or legal representative must make a report to the DMV if someone is killed or injured (no matter how minor the injury) or property damage is over $750. This report is required whether you caused the accident or not and even if the accident occurred on private property. Report the accident within 10 days on the SR 1. You can get this form from any DMV or highway patrol office. You can also download it from DMV’s web site (wwwTXDMV.gov).car accident law

Using the information you give in the accident report, DMV may ask the insurance company to verify that you had coverage in effect at the time of the accident. If you did not have the proper insurance coverage, your driving privilege will be suspended for one year. To get your license back, you will need to provide proof of financial responsibility and maintain it for the next three years.

Every accident reported to DMV by law enforcement will show on your driving record unless the reporting officer says another person was at fault. Every accident reported by you, or another party in the accident, will show on your record if any vehicle involved has over $750 in damage or if anyone is injured or dies. It does not matter who caused the accident. The law says DMV must keep this record.

Accident Recap
The following information will help you complete the SR 1 form. (Keep it in your glove box.) Do not use this information to replace the SR 1 form.

Your insurance company name/policy # 
Date & Time of Accident 
Location of accident 

NOTE: You must give your current address and show these documents to any peace officer or person involved in this accident:

Your driver license 
Your registration card 
Evidence of financial responsibility 
Your insurance company name/policy # 
You must give your current address 

Other driver information:

Driver’s date of birth 
Driver’s DL #/State 
Driver’s name & address 
Driver’s license plate #/State 
Driver’s insurance company name 
Policy # and expiration date 
Policy holder’s name & address 
Vehicle owner’s name & address 
Injuries or property damage 

Contact our Accident Lawyers if you have ever experienced a personal injury and think others are at fault for the accident.