The legal process and time frames
Lawsuits related to car accident injuries are generally treated as personal injury lawsuits and filed in civil court. The plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) seeks to recover money from the defendant (the person being sued). Here is a general overview of the steps involved in filing a lawsuit.
- File a complaint. The first step in pursuing a car accident lawsuit is to file a complaint with the court. This provides a detailed narrative laying out what happened, the damages you are claiming, and the legal basis for bringing the lawsuit. You must file your complaint within your state’s statute of limitations—in the case of California, within 2 years of the accident that caused your injuries.
- Serve the Defendant with the complaint. After filing your complaint with the court, you must inform the defendant that you have filed a lawsuit against them. This process is formally known as ‘serving the complaint,’ and you must follow strict guidelines in order for the court to consider the document properly served.
- The Defendant files an answer to your complaint. This answer will usually include admission or denial of the factual allegations laid out in your complaint and set forward any legal defenses.
- Discovery. Once the complaint and answer have been filed in court, both parties will request and exchange information. This process is known as discovery. During this phase, you may be asked to produce documents, answer written questions, or undergo depositions related to the case. The defendant will also have the opportunity to do the same.
- Trial. Once discovery is complete, both sides will gather and present their arguments to a judge or jury. If the evidence is overwhelming for one side, the case may settle before going to trial. If not, both the Plaintiff and Defendant will be given the opportunity to present evidence, produce witnesses, cross-examine the witnesses of the opposing party, present experts, etc. Once the trial is closed, the judge or jury will deliberate and issue a verdict in favor of either the Plaintiff or Defendant based on a ‘preponderance of evidence’ supporting their claim, and a judgment will be entered, including an amount in compensation, if any.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit for your car accident claim is no simple task. It requires a significant amount of skill and experience. This is not something the average person can successfully take on by themselves.