Car accidents are terrifying and traumatic experiences, especially when they result in painful, life-altering injuries. Unfortunately, the trauma sometimes continues when car accident victims have to navigate the complex legal system to recover their losses after a crash. No one wants to worry about a court appearance when they’re at their most vulnerable—still recovering from injuries and often facing mounting medical bills at the same time they’re unable to return to work. Many car accident victims wonder if their legal claim to recover damages like medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering will take them to the courtroom or if they can resolve the claim without a court appearance. Is it necessary to go to court after a car accident?
Proving Liability in Car Accidents
To file a successful claim for compensation for damages after a car accident in fault-based insurance states like Texas, the injury victim has the burden of proving the other party liable for damages by showing evidence that their negligent or reckless actions caused the accident. Proving liability for a car accident requires an investigation, sometimes including examining the police report, any available surveillance or traffic camera footage, and eyewitness testimony to determine the negligent action that caused the accident. To prove liability, the injury victim must document evidence demonstrating the following:
- The at-fault party owed a duty of care to others on the road to take reasonable measures to prevent injuries
- They breached this duty through negligent actions
- Their negligent breach of duty directly caused the victim’s injuries
- The injury victim suffered significant damages from the injury
Most fault-based insurance systems work on a comparative negligence basis, which means even those partly responsible for an accident can still claim a portion of their damages minus their percentage of fault. While this may be helpful for those who seek to recover financial losses even if they contributed to the accident, it sometimes gives insurance companies an incentive to assign undue blame to injury victims so they can lower the amount they have to pay out on a claim. For instance, in a claim for $100,000 in damages, if the insurance company finds an injury victim 30% at fault for the accident, they only have to pay $70,000. Because insurers may take advantage of this system, it’s often helpful for a car accident injury victim to hire an attorney to represent their interests by documenting clear evidence of liability and making a compelling case for full recovery of damages.
When do Car Accident Cases Have to Go to Court?
Nearly 95% of car accident claims are settled out of court through a car accident attorney’s direct negotiations with the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident. In most cases, an experienced car accident lawyer carefully calculates the victim’s damages including medical costs, future medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering compensation to maximize the amount of a settlement and then engages in negotiations with the insurance adjuster assigned to the case. Most car accident claims end with a settlement offer from the insurance company. Only in a minority of cases does the insurance company decide to take the matter to court, deny a claim completely, or offer an unacceptably low settlement amount. In that case, the injury victim’s attorney may advise them to file a lawsuit in court as long as it’s within the state’s statute of limitations for injury claims—a two-year time limit in Texas.
While litigating a car accident claim in court may take longer than obtaining a settlement, and it typically means the injury victim must testify in court, court awards for a victim’s damages tend to be substantially higher than settlement amounts.
If you’ve been injured and suffered property damage in a car accident, your car accident attorney will advise you of the chances your case will require court litigation.