If you have recently been in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you might be wondering what you are in for in terms of getting the situation resolved.
The answer to how long it will take ultimately depends on a few different factors, including if – and to what extent – the other driver’s insurance company fights your car accident claim, how complex your accident and subsequent injuries were, and how willing you are to wait to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.
That said, below is a step-by-step guide that will help give you a sense of what is involved in a Morgantown car accident lawsuit.
If you are unsure as to whether or not you have a case, or if you would like to talk with us about how to get started on a claim, don’t hesitate to reach out today to set up a free consultation.
1) Filing a Police Report On the Car Accident
Immediately following a car accident, once you have made sure everyone in the vehicle is okay, call the police. In West Virginia, you must call the police after accidents that involve any personal injury or death as well as after accidents where more than $1000 worth of damage occurs.
If you are able, take pictures of the scene with your cell phone while waiting for the police to arrive. Capture each of the cars and their locations as well as the damage done to them, and make sure you have a picture of the other driver’s license plate.
Once the police arrive, don’t admit fault or say anything out of turn. Simply answer the officer’s questions and let them document the scene. After obtaining a report, keep one for your records and have another copy sent to your insurance provider.
2) Seeking Medical Care Promptly After the Car Accident
If you or someone else was injured in the accident, it’s important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. If you delay getting treatment, or don’t communicate the extent of your injuries to your doctors, that could be used against you later. If, for example, you ask for compensation related to a whiplash injury, but you didn’t tell your doctor that your neck hurt, it might leave your claim on shaky ground.
Of course, you might not experience all symptoms of your injury immediately, which is why you should return for further medical attention if additional symptoms arise in the days following the accident.
3) Seeking Legal Advice About the Car Accident
The first thing to keep in mind when considering filing a claim after a car accident is that the insurance company is already preparing their defense. If you pursue compensation, you’ll likely be fighting against a team of corporate attorneys doing everything they can to pay out as little claim money as possible. That’s their job.
So, if you’re serious about pursuing a claim, you will likely need to even the playing field by hiring your own attorney who knows how to win car accident cases. A good car accident lawyer will put their own experience and legal acumen to use for you and they will help make sure you don’t make any mistakes that might jeopardize your claim.
4) Opening a Car Accident Injury Case With a Lawyer
If you know you need an attorney and are ready to open a case, where do you start? A few suggestions from our experience :
- Online reviews: You can learn a lot about the experience of working with an attorney by making sure they have a solid online reputation. If there are several past clients who have had bad experiences and seem reasonable, you might want to look elsewhere.
- Contingency fee basis: A contingency fee is where you don’t have to pay your attorney until after you win, in which case their fee will be a percentage of your total compensation. If an attorney is not willing to offer a contingency arrangement, it might mean they aren’t confident in their ability to win your case.
- Experience: Understanding the laws and nuances around car accident cases is extremely important, so we recommend looking for attorneys who have a long track record of successfully winning maximum compensation for their clients.
Of course, there are other things to consider, including your impression of the attorneys and their staff and if you feel comfortable working with them.
5) Case Investigation of the Car Accident and Injuries
Once you hire a car accident attorney, he or she will begin investigating your case, which will include some conversations with you, the gathering of evidence, and coming to understand exactly what happened.
It’s important during this time that you do things conducive to the success of your case, such as keeping doctor’s notes and other important documents that can serve as proof. But it’s also important that you don’t do anything that could be detrimental to your case, such as missing doctor’s appointments or posting about the accident on social media.
6) Demands for Settlement on the Accident
Once your attorney has completed their initial investigation and once you have completed treatment, then he or she will craft a demand letter to the insurance company outlining your claim. This will include everything your attorney believes you have a right to compensation for under the law, which might include the expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident, pain and suffering, punitive damages, and more.
7) Negotiations with the Insurance Company for Compensation
If you file a claim and an insurance company offers you a settlement, it means they know you have a case. They might say it’s the best offer they can give, but those claims are meaningless. They owe you for the damages that have been caused by your accident.
That said, settling out of court can be ideal for both sides. Going to court can be expensive, it can take a lot of time, and the outcome is uncertain. If an insurance company is willing to settle with you at an amount that works for you, then it does make sense to negotiate that out of court.
Nevertheless, you and your lawyer must be willing to go to court if need be. In some ways, it’s like a game of poker: if the other person believes you aren’t willing to bet a significant amount of money on your hand, then they’re going to try to make you fold by intimidating you.
Insurance companies will do the same thing, which is why it’s important to make it clear – and work with an attorney who makes it clear – that you are willing to file a lawsuit if they refuse to fairly compensate you for your losses.
8) Car Accident Case Resolution
If your claim is rejected, your lawyer will be able to pursue legal action on your behalf, filing a complaint with the courts explaining the lawsuit. The complaint will result in a summons where the insurance company is informed we are suing the insured, after which they will have a period of time to produce a response. If they contest the complaint, then the discovery process will begin.
The discovery phase is where each party shares relevant information and begins compiling evidence. This can include photos of the accident scene, social media posts, doctor’s notes, the police report, and whatever other evidence might be available.
This evidence will then be used in trial where both sides present their arguments, call witnesses, cross-examine, and present evidence. Then, the jury or judge (depending on the type of trial) will make a determination on your case and a final judgment as to how much compensation you deserve (if you have won).
9) Closing of Car Accident Case
If your case has been won, whether in or out of court, then you might be wondering how quickly you will receive your compensation. It depends on a few different variables, including whether or not the defense is going to appeal the case.
It is important to know that the claims process might not end as quickly as you would like, even after it has been closed. However, your attorney will help make sure you receive the compensation you have been granted as quickly as possible.
Injured After an Accident? Get in Touch with Colombo Law
At Colombo Law, we believe too many people fail to understand their rights after experiencing traumatic injuries. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to help everyone we can receive the compensation they deserve.
To speak with us about your case over a free consultation, give us a call at 888-860-1414 or complete our contact form and we’ll be in touch.