Reasons Car Accident Cases (Usually) Don’t Go to Trial
Many people are under the impression that all legal matters end up in the courtroom. Countless TV shows and movies reinforce this belief through dramatic scenes of tense witness cross examinations, bellowing objections, and fiery closing arguments.
In reality, most civil cases are resolved well before a trial is necessary. And, while pleading your case before a jury of your peers has a certain grandeur, most lawyers and the parties in the case alike see more benefits from a pre-trial settlement than a protracted legal battle in a courtroom.
That said, if you have been injured in a car accident, it is crucial to hire an experienced trial lawyer to represent you. Your case will likely not go to court, but you need to know that your attorney has the experience and willingness to go the distance if it means achieving a better outcome.
At the Whitley Law Firm, our car accident attorneys have extensive experience negotiating on behalf of injured clients and representing them in courtroom proceedings. Keep reading for more information about what to expect in the course of your claim, or contact us today for a free consultation.
Why Car Accident Cases Typically Don’t Go to Trial
One of the biggest reasons your car accident claim will likely never see the inside of the courtroom is uncertainty. Jury trials are unpredictable. If the attorneys for both sides presented the same evidence, called the same witnesses, and made the same arguments to multiple juries, the outcomes would likely be different every time.
Building a legal claim also requires significant time and resources. Attorneys for the plaintiff and the defense must weigh the potential benefits of a successful outcome at trial against the money and labor lost if the jury finds against them. Many lawyers and their clients find that the reward is often not worth the risk.
Furthermore, lawyers and insurance adjusters alike are aware of how much your car accident claim is really worth. As a result, realistic negotiations can be conducted to reach the right settlement.
When Might a Car Accident Claim Go to Trial?
Although both sides might know the value of your claim, actually reaching an agreement for a fair amount is not always easy. Insurance claims can be complicated by factors such as:
- Serious injuries
- Significant damages
- Complex liability
The bottom line: If insurance adjusters can pay less on a claim (or pay nothing by denying a claim), they will. You need an experienced lawyer who can help you identify when a settlement is not fair and push back with a strong counteroffer.
In most cases, attorneys and auto insurers meet in the middle on a settlement that fairly compensates the claimant and ends potential litigation. However, if the parties cannot agree, going to trial may be the only recourse for plaintiffs to recover the damages they are owed from the accident.
What Is the Car Accident Trial Process?
When the parties in a car accident claim reach an impasse, the plaintiff has the right to sue the party or parties responsible. Your attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf with the appropriate court. The defendant(s) will answer the complaint and potentially file one or more motions in response.
In the (fairly unlikely) event that the defense requests a jury trial in your car accident case, here is what to expect:
- Waiting. Court dockets are often crowded. As a result, it can take months (or, in extremely busy jurisdictions, years) for cases to go to trial.
- Discovery. The discovery process involves the exchange of information between the parties. Your lawyer will submit questions and request pertinent documents and other evidence from the other side, and attorneys for the defense will do the same. Witnesses to the accident may be deposed (called to testify under oath but outside of court) as well.
- Motions. Prior to your trial date, lawyers for both sides may file motions with the court. The judge’s rulings on these motions can have a significant impact on the evidence and testimony that may be presented at trial.
- Jury selection. Car accident cases may be decided by a jury or a judge (the latter process is known as a bench trial). Jurors are selected through a process called voir dire, where the attorneys ask potential jurors questions designed to assess their ability to hear the facts of the case and render an impartial verdict. The unspoken goal of voir dire is for both sides to select a jury likely to rule in its favor.
- Trial proceedings. When your case goes to trial, you will be present for opening statements, direct and cross examination of witnesses, and closing arguments. You and even some of your loved ones may be called to testify as to the events of the accident and how your injuries affect you.
Preparing for and taking a case to trial is a lengthy, arduous process. Plaintiffs in car accident claims find the prospect of going to trial unnerving, especially testifying in court.
However, if you have a complicated case or the insurance company grossly undervalues or denies your claim, it is important to be prepared for the possibility of a trial. Your attorney should be prepared for this eventuality as well, and have the skills and experience to pursue a favorable result on your behalf.
Contact a Trial Lawyer for Your Car Accident Case
Not all lawyers go to trial. In fact, a number of attorneys prefer to settle the vast majority of their cases and refer matters likely to go to court to an attorney or law firm with the experience and resources to handle them.
At the Whitley Law Firm, we assist clients with filing car accident claims and assisting them no matter the course of their case – even going to trial. Our attorneys have taken cases all the way to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and several of our lawyers are admitted to practice in federal court and before the U.S. Supreme Court. The National Trial Lawyers has recognized founding partner attorney Bob Whitley as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in North Carolina.
For a free consultation, please call the Whitley Law Firm at (919) 785-5000 today. Our car accident attorneys serve clients in Raleigh, Kinston, New Bern, and throughout North Carolina.