Will I Need to Go to Court After a Car Accident?
If you need to go to court after a car accident depends on multiple variables. These variables could include your timetable, the severity of the accident, the position and posture of the opposing insurance company, and a plaintiff’s own tolerance for risk. In some cases, the court could summon you to testify even if you settle out of court.
What Does Going to Court Mean?
A preliminary matter is clarifying any misconception about what it means to “go to court.”
“Going to court” can sometimes be a misleading phrase. Even if you do not personally appear in court, your case may be pending in court. Some cases settle without the victim filing a lawsuit—without any court intervention whatsoever. In this scenario, an insurance company is not likely disputing liability (or fault), and the parties’ respective assessments of the amount of damages are relatively close.
Other cases settle after filing a case but before trial. In this latter scenario, a victim may personally appear at a court-ordered mediation, pretrial, or some other court event, but not participate in a trial.
Sometimes the parties appear for trial and arrive at a settlement before the trial actually starts. If the parties do not settle the case prior to a court decision, then the court makes a final order.
Timing of Your Case
The closer the time of your lawyer’s involvement to your case’s statute of limitations, which, according to Virginia Code § 8.01-243, is two years in most instances, the more likely it is you will need to file a lawsuit. Once a lawyer files a lawsuit, your case is pending in court even if you do not ever personally appear in court.
The Greater Your Damages, the More Likely Your Case is to End Up in Court
The smaller the stakes, the less incentive there is to incur the costs of litigation. Fender bender type cases with property-only damage are highly unlikely to end up in court.
While inanimate objects are easy to remedy or replace, the human body is not. Personal injuries up the ante. Personal injuries can vary from minor and temporary to major and permanent.
The higher on the spectrum the injuries fall toward major and permanent, the greater the likelihood of not only filing a lawsuit but taking the case to trial.
The Posture of the Insurance Company
The opposing insurance company’s posture will be a big factor in whether your case settles prior to filing a lawsuit or prior to a court decision. Some insurance companies expect victims to file, prosecute, and try a lawsuit, hoping to exhaust victim’s resources, wear them down emotionally, and ultimately take a smaller settlement.
It is important that you work with a tireless attorney who is experienced with insurance companies and their battle strategies. An attorney who begins building evidence, working up your case, and preparing for trial early on lets the insurance company know that you are serious.
Your Risk Tolerance
Most cases settle without a trial because of emotional as well as financial risks of a trial. Victims may agree to accept less than what they originally sought to make sure some money goes into their pockets. Defendants who initially denied liability or offered a woefully inadequate settlement might eventually pay more to avoid litigation costs and the risk of the court ordering them to pay a higher award to the victim.
A lawyer’s job is to guide clients on what is in their best interests given the available evidence. A lawyer is nevertheless unable to substitute their judgment for the client’s wishes.
Personal Wishes on Going to Court
Every client has different feelings about having their case be a public record and having to testify in court. Everyone’s financial obligations and willingness to endure months of uncertainty is likewise different. Some clients have an “all-or-nothing” approach, while others take a “bird-in-the-hand” approach.
Speaking with a car accident attorney who actually takes cases to trial will give you a better idea of pretrial negotiation offers and demands in relation to jury verdicts.
Criminal Proceeding May Require Witness Testimony
Some car accident cases involve a crime. An example of this could be a drunk driving or drug-related case. Other examples would be hit-and-run cases or situations where road rage was a factor.
In these situations, even if you settle out of court for damages, you could receive a subpoena to appear in court as a witness to testify against the other driver.
The Parrish Law Firm Will Answer Your Questions about Your Car Accident Case
Parrish Law Firm, PLLC evaluates car accident cases for victims at no cost to them. During the free case evaluation, you will discuss how likely a case is to become a lawsuit and go to trial, as well as what you, as a victim, might expect to recover in damages. To schedule this free consultation, call 571-229-1800.