If you’re like many people who have been injured in a car accident, you’re entitled to financial compensation that helps pay your medical bills, covers your lost wages, and compensates you for your pain and suffering.
But what happens if the at-fault party doesn’t agree? What if you can’t reach a fair settlement?
In a case like that, your Los Angeles personal injury attorney may recommend that you file a formal lawsuit in court – and that means going to trial. Here’s what you need to know about that process.
Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit and Going to Trial
Most car accident cases are settled out of court. That means both parties agree on a fair settlement and the at-fault party pays the victim. However, there are some cases that don’t settle. Sometimes the at-fault party won’t agree to a fair amount (or any amount). In cases like those, personal injury attorneys often recommend filing an official lawsuit and taking the case to court.
Related: Injured in a car accident while using a rideshare service? Here’s what you need to know.
What is a Trial in a Car Accident Lawsuit?
In a car accident lawsuit, a trial is a proceeding where parties present evidence to a court (a judge, and in some cases, a jury). Each side can present its own evidence – but the plaintiff (the car accident victim, in this case) is responsible for showing that he or she is entitled to compensation because the defendant (the at-fault party) was negligent, and the defendant’s negligence caused the accident and the victim’s injuries.
Bench trials are tried before a judge alone.
Jury trials are tried before a judge and a jury.
Related: The main reason to file a car accident lawsuit in California
What Kind of Evidence Will Come Out in a Car Accident Trial?
Both sides get the chance to present evidence. Your attorney may want you to testify so you can explain the situation to the court. You might discuss what happened leading up to the accident, how the accident occurred, or what kind of issues you’re facing as a result of your injuries. If you do end up testifying, your attorney will help ensure that you’re prepared.
Your lawyer will also provide the court with other types of evidence outside your testimony, such as medical records, expert opinions, and even your medical bills to show what your injuries have cost you.
The defendant’s attorneys will likely try to show that their client is not at fault for your accident. They can bring in their own experts, as well as cross-examine you if you testify.
After both sides have presented all their evidence, each side will give a closing argument. During a closing argument, attorneys typically address the judge or jury directly. They summarize the evidence and request that the judge or jury rule in their favor.
Related: How a car accident lawsuit works
Jury Deliberation in a Car Accident Lawsuit That Goes to Trial
If the case is tried before a jury, the jury will receive instructions from the judge – including the type of evidence they can consider while making a decision. Then, the jury will leave the courtroom and go into a special room where they won’t be disturbed. All the jury members will work together to reach a decision.
In cases where there is no jury, the judge will weigh all the evidence him- or herself to make a decision.
Can the Plaintiff Appeal?
In most cases, the plaintiff can appeal the court’s decision. If that happens, your attorney can continue to represent you.
Can You Avoid a Trial?
You can absolutely avoid going to trial if you want to. Usually, going to trial over a car accident case is a last resort – most people only file a formal lawsuit after they’ve tried (and are unable) to reach a settlement with the at-fault party. Your lawyer will negotiate on your behalf to try to keep your case out of court. However, in some cases, it does become necessary to file a formal lawsuit and go to trial for a car accident case.
Do You Need to Speak With a Personal Injury Attorney About a Car Accident Lawsuit Going to Trial?
If you need to talk to a personal injury lawyer about taking a car accident lawsuit to trial – or even about starting negotiations in a car accident case – we’re here to help. Call us at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below for a free consultation. We can visit you at home or in the hospital, have a video conference, or talk over the phone; we’ll do whatever’s right for you.