Do I Have to Go to Court After a Car Accident?
Not everyone has to go to court after a car accident, but sometimes it may be necessary. Your lawyer can provide specific guidance for your particular situation. For many people, the thought of going to court is intimidating, even if they are the plaintiff, rather than the defendant. You may be worried about saying something wrong on the witness stand, for example, or violating some rule of court etiquette. However, even if you do have to go to court after a car accident, your lawyer will thoroughly prepare you for the experience. And in the majority of car accident claims, a court appearance is not necessary.
Submitting a demand letter does not require a court appearance
Many accident victims assume that the first step in the process of seeking compensation is to file a lawsuit. Actually, the lawyer will first submit a demand letter to the insurance company. Demand letters explain the circumstances and facts of the crash, discuss the medical treatment required and property damage sustained, and demand a dollar amount for the losses.
Trained legal professionals understand the nuances of crafting an effective demand letter. They use various pieces of evidence to substantiate the claim, such as the police report and medical records. Your lawyer will demand a dollar amount that is higher than the amount he or she hopes to recover for you. This is because negotiations typically follow demand letters; by demanding a higher amount, the lawyer leaves some room for negotiating and compromising. In many cases, a demand letter and the subsequent negotiations are sufficient to recover a just settlement. In fact, the vast majority of accident cases are settled out of court, with no need for either party to make a court appearance.
Filing a lawsuit does not automatically require a court appearance
Although legal professionals are excellent negotiators, a demand letter may occasionally fail to result in a satisfactory settlement offer. The insurance company may claim that you were partially or completely at fault for the accident, for example, and refuse to offer just compensation for your property damage, medical bills, and other losses. If the settlement offer is too low, you may ask your lawyer to file a personal injury lawsuit. It’s more likely that a lawsuit will be needed if your losses are substantial or you have suffered a severe injury that has resulted in permanent disability.
Note, however, that even if a lawsuit is filed, you will not automatically have to go to court. Many lawsuits are settled before a trial’s opening arguments take place. Filing a lawsuit can serve as leverage to convince the insurance company to raise its settlement offer. If the new settlement offer seems reasonable to you, you can decide to accept it in exchange for dropping the lawsuit. Before you make a decision, consult your lawyer. Your attorney can offer guidance on whether taking your chances with a jury is likely to result in a larger award than the settlement offer.
If you decide to reject the settlement offer, the case will go to trial. If this happens, you will need to go to court and you can expect to testify. Even if the thought of going to court makes you a little nervous, your lawyer can help you. Being thoroughly prepared for your court appearance can help you feel more in control of the situation. And remember that your lawyer will be right there with you.
Find the legal help you need at Ellis Injury Law in California
A serious car accident can derail your life. It can be confusing to sort through all of your options and figure out the next steps to take. At Ellis Injury Law, our legal team works with car accident victims just like you every day. Throughout the legal process, we’ll be there with you every step of the way to help you get life back on track again.
We’ve recovered more than $350 million on behalf of our clients in Los Angeles and throughout the surrounding areas. Contact us today to request a free consultation to review your case and discuss your options.