A Guide to the Car Accident Lawsuit Process

Damaged in heavy car accident vehicles after collision on city street crash site. car accident lawsuit process concept

Most car accident claims settle before well before trial. Many are resolved without having to file a lawsuit. Even if you must file a lawsuit to protect your rights, your case will likely be resolved without a trial. But if the insurance company refuses to make a fair offer to resolve your case, your case may go to trial. And if you do, you may have questions about the car accident lawsuit process and what to expect.

When and Why Does a Car Accident Trial Happen?

Less than 10% of all civil lawsuits go to trial. When they do, it is because the parties cannot reach a resolution that both sides agree to. The disagreement is often because:

  • The parties cannot agree on who caused the accident;
  • The insurance company refuses to make a fair settlement offer; or
  • The insurance company won’t pay what you and your lawyer think you are owed.

By the time of a trial for a car accident case, it has usually been at least a year since the accident happened. Your lawyer tried to negotiate a settlement before filing a lawsuit. Once your case has been filed, it usually takes a least a year until the car accident trial is scheduled. During this time, the lawyers exchanged written pleadings and discovery, conducted depositions, and tried to reach a settlement through mediation, arbitration, or another dispute resolution method. If all of these attempts at resolving your case have failed, we will present your case in court through a car accident trial.

Taking a case to trial is complicated. You must follow the rules of evidence, and questioning a witness is more difficult than it looks. If your case goes to trial, having an experienced trial lawyer on your side is especially beneficial.

How Long Does the Car Accident Lawsuit Process Last?

The car accident lawsuit process takes on average 1 to 3 days to complete. This timeframe will vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case, how complicated it is, and the number of parties involved. For example, a car accident trial involving two passenger vehicles will take less time than a multi-vehicle accident involving a semi-truck.

What Is the Car Accident Lawsuit Process?

A car accident trial can take place before a jury, which is what most people are familiar with. You can also present your case without a jury in a bench trial.

In a bench trial, the judge interprets the law and acts as the factfinder, deciding who was at fault and the amount of money to compensate you.

In a jury trial, the judge and jury have separate functions. The judge oversees the conduct of the trial and rules on the law, while the jury evaluates the evidence to decide who was at fault and an amount of money that will fairly compensate you for your injuries.

For strategic reasons, most car accident cases are tried to a jury.

Jury Selection / Voir Dire

A jury trial begins with jury selection, also known as voir dire. Voir dire is a Latin phrase that means “to look and to see.” The judge will make introductory remarks and ask general questions about each juror’s ability to serve. The judge will also provide an overview of how the trial will proceed. Then the lawyers ask questions to select the best jurors for the case.

During voir dire, your lawyer will ask the jurors questions. A lawyer can excuse a juror for cause if the juror is biased and cannot fairly evaluate the evidence. A lawyer can use a peremptory challenge to excuse a juror they think is not suitable for your case. Each lawyer has a limited number of peremptory challenges they can use.

Opening Statements

Once the jury has been sworn in, the lawyers make opening statements. The opening statement is a short plain statement of what they expect the evidence to show. The opening statement is our opportunity to present our theory of the case and why we think the jury should find in your favor.

Plaintiff’s Presentation of Evidence

As the plaintiff (the person that filed the lawsuit), you will present evidence first. During your case in chief, your lawyer will call witnesses to establish the facts to show who was at fault, the nature and extent of your injuries, that they were caused by the accident, and the cost of the medical care you received.

When your lawyer calls a witness, he asks questions on direct examination. This means he must ask open-ended questions that do not suggest the answer. The other lawyer can then cross-examine the witness. On cross-examination, a lawyer can ask questions that do suggest an answer and can be answered with a “yes” or “no” response.

Defendant’s Case in Chief

Once your lawyer has presented all of your evidence, he will rest his case. Then the defendant’s lawyer can present her case in chief, calling witnesses that support her client’s version of events. The defendant’s lawyer will ask questions on direct examination, and your lawyer will cross-examine the defendant’s witnesses.

Closing Argument

Once both sides have presented their evidence, the case moves to closing arguments. During the closing argument, each side will summarize the evidence presented and ask the jury to find in favor of their client.

During closing arguments, your lawyer will highlight the evidence that shows that the other driver was at fault, ask the jury to return a verdict in your favor, and suggest an amount of money that will fairly compensate you for your injuries and the damages you suffered.

Jury Deliberations

Once closing arguments are concluded, the judge will instruct the jury, and the jury will retire to deliberate. When the jury reaches a decision, they will return to the courtroom and read it in open court.

Connecticut Trial Lawyer Stephen Lebedevitch Will Guide You Through the Car Accident Lawsuit Process

Connecticut trial attorney Stephen Lebedevitch has made a career presenting cases to juries. He understands jury psychology and knows how to present evidence for maximum effect. He resolves many car accident cases without going to trial. But when trial is the only option, he knows what it takes to win.

The Lebedevitch Law Firm has a proven record of success. To put our experience to work for you, contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.

Categories: Auto Accidents