Car accidents are a terrifying experience for those involved. Few accident victims ever forget the sound of breaking glass and crushing metal. Unfortunately, the distress of a car accident sometimes continues well into the victim’s recovery period, when they have to navigate the complex legal system to recover their damages. “Damages” in an accident claim are the consequences of the accident, including medical expenses, lost income, and compensation for pain and suffering as well as property damage to a vehicle. Fortunately, most car accident cases settle out of court, especially with experienced legal counsel representing the victim’s rights throughout the claim process. But what happens when the insurance company of the party at fault for the accident wrongfully denies a claim or offers an inadequate settlement amount that’s unfair to the injury victim?
When an insurance company protects its profits at the expense of an injury victim’s payout on car accident damages, an experienced Plano car accident attorney may recommend taking the case to court rather than accepting a lowball offer or no compensation at all.
How Likely Is It That a Car Accident Case Goes to Trial?
The vast majority of car accident and personal injury claims are resolved through an out-of-court settlement directly from the at-fault party’s insurance company. Most at-fault parties in car accidents are negligent drivers, but in some cases, it may be a negligent road maintenance agency or the manufacturer of a defective auto part.
When powerful insurance companies try to undervalue claims or wrongfully deny a valid claim to protect their profits, they sometimes decide to risk a jury trial rather than admit their client’s fault. Sometimes they’ll agree to pay out a portion of the damages, but minimize the amount by assigning the injury victim an undue percentage of blame in the accident. If the victim’s accident attorney has ample evidence of the at-fault party’s liability and proof of the victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, and other impacts of the accident, they’ll file a lawsuit within the state’s two-year statute of limitations for car accident cases and take the defendant to court.
What is the Court Process Like in a Car Accident Case?
In car accident cases in court, the burden of proving fault lies with the injury victim who is the plaintiff in the case. The victim’s attorney must document and present evidence that the other party in the accident (the defendant) caused the accident through their act of negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing. This requires presenting the following types of evidence:
- Photos and videos of the crash
- Reports from accident reconstruction experts
- Eyewitness testimony
- Photos of the damaged vehicle and the accident scene
- The police report
A Plano personal injury attorney with strong litigation experience can build a compelling case showing the at-fault party’s liability.
Injury victims are typically required to testify to the events of the accident during the trial.
Showing Proof of Damages at the Trial
Besides presenting evidence of the defendant’s liability for the accident, the injury victim and their attorney must also present medical evidence showing the impacts of the injury on the victim’s life. Evidence includes medical reports, medical expert testimony, and often employers testifying to missed work days or the victim’s inability to continue working in their previous capacity or at all. Medical experts may also testify to the level of pain the victim experiences with their type of injury and how long they can expect to continue feeling pain until they reach their maximum recovery.
The defendant also presents their evidence and testimony in court, typically in an attempt to show that the victim contributed to the accident, or that they aren’t as injured as they appear.
Jury Deliberations and Verdict in a Car Accident Trial
Once all evidence and testimony are presented in court, the jury deliberates and then gives a verdict in the case. A positive jury verdict in a car accident case includes the amount of compensation the defendant must pay the victim through their insurance company—or in less common cases—from their personal funds.
A trial takes longer than a settlement, but jury awards for damages are often substantially larger than settlements, so a car accident trial has its drawbacks and benefits for accident victims.