Accident cases are handled in two ways. First is the claims stage, and after that is the litigation stage. When a major accident is involved, most lawyers will skip the claims stage and go directly into litigation. Only a judge and a demand for a jury trial will get the serious attention of the insurer of the party that caused the accident. Here’s how a major accident case works its way through the courts.
The Lawsuit and Summons
The attorneys file suit on behalf of the client (plaintiff), and a summons is issued. The person that caused the accident (defendant) is served with copies of the lawsuit and summons. The summons requires them to file certain legal documents with the court on or before a certain date, or a default judgment might be entered against them.
After the Appearance
The defendant turns the lawsuit and summons over to their insurer, and the insurer in turn forwards the papers to insurance defense attorneys. They file their formal appearance on behalf of the defendant, and the adversarial litigation process begins.
This is a critical stage in any injury case. Written questions called interrogatories are served on both the plaintiff and the defendant. Interrogatories are to be answered in writing under oath. According to McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., the questions primarily inquire into accident witnesses, prior injuries and injuries sustained in the accident. Full and complete disclosure is required. After interrogatories are answered, all appropriate medical records are obtained and the depositions of the parties and any witnesses to the accident are taken. Depositions involve oral questions and sworn answers in a proceeding where the attorneys, the deponent and a court reporter are present.
Throughout the preparation of the case, the experienced injury attorney will prepare as if the case will be going to trial. Trials require considerable time from both the attorneys and the presiding judge. A pre-trial conference is ordinarily held between the judge and the attorneys for purposes of isolating issues and possibly agreeing on what evidence might be heard at trial. It’s also a device where the parties, with the intervention of the judge, attempt to settle the case in its entirety. Most cases settle before trial.
Almost all injury cases that go to trial are heard by a jury that makes a finding of guilty or not guilty. If a guilty verdict is entered, damages are awarded.
This article is from Lizzie Weakley, a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. She enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her three-year-old husky Snowball.