How To File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Atlanta
Did you know that if your Atlanta, Georgia car accident claim failed to result in a fair settlement, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver? We can help you get the compensation you should have gotten; call The Bader Law Firm at 678-562-5595 today for a free consultation.
If you filed a car accident claim, you probably just want to get a fair settlement so your life can go back to normal. If the other driver (or their lawyer or insurance company) fails to offer a fair settlement, you may want to consider initiating a civil lawsuit. You may not be aware of the differences between a car insurance claim and a car accident lawsuit; here are some notable differences.
Because a “settlement” can occur in both a car insurance claim as well as a car accident lawsuit, and because the purpose of each is to get compensated for damages sustained in a car accident, sometimes the two processes get confused, but there are some important differences.
Any time you are involved in a car accident, you should notify your car insurance company if you want to get reimbursed for fixing the damage done to your vehicle; that is called making a car insurance claim. In this process, you negotiate with the insurance company adjuster regarding how much money they will pay in order to return your vehicle to the working order it was in before you were involved in the accident.
A lawsuit, on the other hand, is a legal action; more specifically, a car accident lawsuit occurs in civil court, where a plaintiff (i.e., the person that filed the lawsuit) tries to get a money judgment from the defendant (i.e., the person they are suing). That process happens after you take a number of steps; only then will you be able to have your case heard in a formal court of law.
First: File a Complaint
In most states, a lawsuit begins when a person (the “plaintiff”) files a complaint or petition (it is called different things in different states) with the court; this document details what happened at the event in question, the damages that the plaintiff claims were done to their car, and the reason for bringing the case to court. Once that document gets filed with the court, the lawsuit begins.
Second: Serve the Defendant
Serving the other person (the “defendant” is the one responding to the filed documents) means that you are providing them notice that they are being sued, and for what. Any time you get named in a lawsuit, you have the right to know what you are being accused of and why it is being brought up in court. Knowing this, you have the right to defend yourself, and to hire an attorney, if you so desire. Although car accident lawsuits are civil (not criminal) in nature, you still have the legal right to defend yourself.
“Serving” (i.e., notifying) the defendant means giving them a copy of the filed legal document, plus an additional document called a “summons.” Although special rules exist regarding who can serve the document, and how and when they should serve it, those rules can vary from place to place; generally speaking, the filing party has 30 days in which to have the defendant served, but rules take into account extenuating circumstances such as difficult-to-find defendants.
Third: The Defendant Files an Answer
This document, also filed with the court, serves as a response to the complaints. The defendant can admit to anything or deny everything listed in the complaint, and refute it with their own side of the story or explain why they were justified – that is, any legal defenses they may have for their actions.
Both sides of the lawsuit are legally obligated to share relevant information related to the case; the exchanging of that information is called discovery. That way, each side has an equally fair opportunity to plan their case, and each side gets to examine the evidence for themselves and formulate their own arguments in support of their side. This process usually includes requests for documentation plus interrogatories and depositions (written and oral responses).
Once each side has provided all of the information they have to the other party, they get to argue their case in court; this is called a trial, and it usually goes as follows:
- Each side will make their opening statements.
- The plaintiff will present the evidence, which may include documents as well as an individual or multiple individuals’ oral testimony.
- The defendant will cross-examine the other side’s witnesses, then present its defense.
- The plaintiff will cross-examine the other side’s witnesses.
- Each side will make their closing statements.
- The judge or jury (if it’s what’s called a “bench trial,” there will be no jury) will consider all evidence and arguments before reaching a verdict. A judgment will be entered, and if the judge/jury found in the plaintiff’s favor, the defendant will pay the damages, as legally ordered.
Things To Remember
Although a car accident lawsuit usually follows to procedures outlined above, it can take some additional or alternate routes or steps, such as motions and appeals. Additionally:
- The plaintiff does not need to hire an attorney in order to file a lawsuit, but it might be in their best interest to do so, as there are a number of reasons and ways an attorney can assist you and help you steer clear of some of the pitfalls of filing a lawsuit.
- Some states with “no-fault” car insurance only allow drivers to file car accident lawsuits when their specific situations met the criteria, which may include a minimum dollar amount of damage, for example.
- Because of the hassle, plus the time and money committed to lawsuits of any kind, most car accident cases reach a settlement even before anyone files a lawsuit.
Atlanta car accident lawsuit attorneys at The Bader Law Firm in Atlanta can take care of this process for you. Call 678-562-5595 for a free consultation.