Going to court for a car accident is actually rather rare compared to settlements. After a Tucson car accident, there are many other steps between accident and court that could lead both sides to settle before it goes to a courtroom.
Going to court is risky and expensive for both sides, and should be seen as a last resort when all other remedies are exhausted. Here’s what you need to know from Zanes Law about what happens before court and what you’ll need to prepare for if you have to go.
Getting Compensation: Settle or Go to Court?
You do not have to go to court to get compensation after a car accident, though you always have the option of pushing the matter to trial. Arizona allows you to file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver, your own policy if you have the right coverage, or a personal injury lawsuit.
The auto insurance industry exists to help people in accidents receive quicker settlements without going to trial. If everyone went to the courtroom, the courts would become far too clogged with cases. But there are some situations where suing is absolutely necessary, like:
- The other side denies your claim completely
- The other side will not settle for a fair amount
- The insurance policy limit is far too low to cover your needs
- The other side has no insurance and your personal insurance won’t cover the difference
In roughly 90% of cases, car accident victims and insurance companies settle outside of court, especially with the help of a car accident lawyer. When they build your case, they’ll try to show the insurer that it’s not worth the effort or the money to take the case to trial. Most of the time, this works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.
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The Process of Going to Court for a Car Accident in Tucson
Even if you file the paperwork for a lawsuit, you may not reach court. Either side can accept a settlement at any time. Here are the steps you’ll see as you move closer to your court date.
- Your attorney will notify the insurer or the at-fault driver you intend to sue. They’ll start an investigation into the accident to build a case.
- While the case is getting built, either side can attempt to reach a settlement. You always have the choice of refusing a settlement offer, though your lawyer will advise you on whether it’s worth taking.
- If no offers are given, or they’re all refused, your lawyer will file the lawsuit paperwork officially with the court.
- After the court has accepted it, the case moves to the discovery phase. Attorneys on both sides share the evidence and defenses they have with each other.
- The court will schedule a trial date. Prior to this date, you or the other side may try to settle or enter mediation. What gets revealed in discovery can sometimes push one party into negotiations.
- If there is no settlement before the court date, you’ll go to trial and your case will be decided by a judge and jury.
If your case proceeds to discovery, you may have to give a formal deposition to your attorney for evidence. You may also get called to testify in court. Your lawyer will tell you if you need to be summoned or you may receive a court summons through the mail.
What Are the Dangers of Going to Court?
Going to court is always a gamble. You could end up getting more money than you could otherwise. You could also lose everything if you lose your case. Your lawyer will do everything they can to help you win, but there is always one side that will lose and it could be you. The verdict of the trial is final.
Trials can also take a long time to finish. If you can’t work and you’re waiting on compensation to cover your bills, you could find yourself in a financial bind. Your lawyer may have solutions to help you with this, depending on your situation and the resources of the law firm.
If you lose your case, your lawyer also loses their fees. Nearly all accident attorneys work on a contingency fee system. This means that they have to win your case in order to get paid.
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What Is Mediation?
Mediation is an alternative to court that’s like a trial but without creating a binding decision like a trial. Mediation calls in a neutral third party to hear both sides of the case and help with negotiations. The decision is non-binding and either party can stop at any time.
Mediation is usually quite fast, only taking a day or two. The mediator will inform both sides of the process and their rights, and then the parties will describe the issue and their viewpoint. The mediator will usually ask each side in private what it would take to settle.
The goal is to find an acceptable solution for both parties. If one can be reached, the mediator will draw up a mediation agreement for both parties to sign. This is an enforceable agreement. If the case gets pushed to trial it could be used against the side pushing for trial.
You should have a lawyer helping you with the mediation process. Sometimes, people get pushed into mediation sessions without knowing what to expect or how to argue for their claim. This puts them at a significant disadvantage.
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Let an Attorney Help You With the Process
If you believe your case needs to go to trial or mediation to reach the result you want, contact a car accident lawyer in Tucson with experience in trials. Not all lawyers have trial experience because of the risks. Zanes Law is fully prepared to take your case to trial if that’s what it takes to get you the compensation you need.