Filing a Lawsuit In a Texas Car Accident Case - An Overview.
Not all car accident cases can be settled out of court. Those that cannot be settled are litigated. The term "litigation" refers to process of filing suit and taking a case partially or fully through the court system. In this article, we will discuss why lawsuits are filed, what's in them, and why it's important to have an experienced car wreck attorney on your side.
If you're new here, make sure you check out our Comprehensive Guide to Car Accident Law now.
Why file a lawsuit?
A lawsuit is typically filed if there is a breakdown in the negotiation process between the attorney on your side and the defendant/their insurance carrier on the defense's side. There are many reasons that a the process can break down, but the two most common are:
- A dispute over liability---that is, who's truly at fault.
- A dispute over damages---i.e., the defendant's claiming you're not as hurt as you claim
Once an impasse is reached, it's time to ask a court for help. The lawsuit formally invokes the power of the court system to compel the defendant to pay you what you think you're deserving of. Without the court getting involved, the defendant and his or her insurance company can simply refuse to pay you anything.
How is a lawsuit filed?
Here are the steps involved in filing a civil lawsuit. These can vary state by state, but this should serve as a good outline:
- File a POP (Plaintiff's Original Petition):
A lawsuit is somewhat like a letter of intent. It's the official way to tell the court that you wish to make someone who hurt you pay money. It's also worth noting that judges don't like foolishness and they consider their time to be quite valuable, so the tone of the lawsuit is a little bit apologetic, containing language such as "if it pleases the court" and "if it pleases the court, plaintiff wishes to..." Further, what is said in a lawsuit (and the tone that is taken) is rooted in tradition, and it's taken quite seriously by the court. All that to say, how you say what you say in a lawsuit really does matter. The language in the lawsuit (called a plaintiff's original petition, which is a fancy way of saying "first draft lawsuit that is subject to change as new info comes to light") essentially informs the court of the incident, asks the court to make the defendant respond to the allegations, and it details the extent of harm and why the plaintiff feels that the defendant is at fault. The defendant then replies with what is called "an answer." In their response, they usually deny everything and as that the plaintiff prove their allegations. This sets into motion the next stage: discovery.
The next part of the process is discovery. During discovery, the parties exchange information and documents related to the claim in the complaint and defenses asserted in the answer. During discovery, depositions may be conducted. A deposition is testimony given under oath by people with information related to the lawsuit recorded by a court reporter.
As discovery proceeds, the parties have pre-trial conferences with the judge. The parties advise the judge of discovery progress and in some situations discuss possible settlements. The judge often aids in negotiations and sets schedules for completion of discovery.
During the pre-trial phase, the lawyers may request the judge to bar specific evidence, witnesses or arguments as legally improper. The judge grants or denies the motions. Upon completion of discovery, decisions on pre-trial motions and failure to reach a settlement the matter is ready to go to trial.
- Trial and Judgement:
At the trial, the plaintiff presents evidence first to a judge either in a bench trial or a group of citizens in a jury. After the plaintiff presents evidence, the defendant has an opportunity to present the defense side of the case. The plaintiff has the burden of proving his case by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that it is more likely than not, that the claims of the plaintiff are true. This standard of evidence is much lower than the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
Both sides present their cases, and then the judge or jury decides. If the judge or jury finds against the plaintiff, the case is over. The judge enters a judgment in favor of the defendant releasing the defendant from liability for the plaintiff's claims.
If the judge or jury finds for the plaintiff, the defendant is found to be liable and judgment is entered for the plaintiff. The court then awards damages (money) and/or orders the defendant perform a specific act. This order concludes the trial process and is a judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
Be Prepared For A Fight.
In a car accident case there can be millions of dollars on the line for both sides. You as the plaintiff need the right attorney who has the experience and grit to stand by your side. We've been fighting for car accident victims for over 25 years, so, as you can expect, nothing surprises us anymore in the courtroom.
If you've been injured in a car accident, you're going to need an attorney that has litigated in the courtroom, not just someone to do your paperwork. We've been there and done that. We're here to get the compensation you deserve and if you we don't win, you don't owe us a cent. Call us at the Grossman Law Offices: (855) 326-0000.
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