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What Happens in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

What Happens in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

A car accident lawsuit generally requires filing a complaint against the defendant, preparing evidence and documentation, negotiating a settlement, and going to court if parties can’t reach a financial agreement. This is only a big-picture view of what a car accident lawsuit entails, and there is much more to the process.

You may find it difficult to handle a lawsuit alone, especially if you are not a lawyer. You may retain a car accident attorney to lead any insurance claim or lawsuit that can produce your entitled money.

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The Process Leading to a Car Accident Lawsuit

Filing a lawsuit is not generally the first response after a car accident.

Before filing a lawsuit:

Your Attorney Investigates the Car Accident

Your attorney will gather details, evidence, and witness accounts related to your car accident.

They may:

  • Speak with witnesses who saw the accident happened
  • Secure footage from security cameras, dash cameras, and traffic cameras
  • Photograph damage to vehicles and other aspects of the accident scene
  • Secure a copy of the accident-related police report
  • Work with experts to analyze the cause of the accident

Whether seeking compensation through an insurance claim or lawsuit, a comprehensive investigation will be critical to your case’s success.

Your Attorney Evaluates All Available Insurance Coverage

Car accident lawyer communicating with client via phone call while working in the office

Every motorist in most states must have auto insurance. Most accident victims file insurance claims, which may be the first course of action following your accident.

Your lawyer will need to:

  • Determine whether at-fault parties have insurance
  • Evaluate your own insurance policy
  • Identify coverage limits within all applicable insurance policies
  • File any necessary claims
  • Determine if a lawsuit is necessary (which usually happens after negotiating with insurers)

Car accidents resulting in injuries regularly reach six figures (or more) in economic costs alone. Such costly damages may exceed the coverage limits that exist within auto insurance policies.

Your Attorney Compares Your Losses to Insurance Coverage Options

Your attorney will total the cost of economic and non-economic losses from your car accident. They will compare this total with all available insurance coverage. This comparison is one factor your lawyer will weigh when determining if a lawsuit is necessary.

Your Legal Team Submits Demand Letters to Insurers

Your attorney will submit their demand letter to any insurer that owes you compensation. The demand letter will detail the cost of your losses, which will equal the sum your lawyer is demanding from insurers.

When Is It Necessary to File a Car Accident Lawsuit?

Filing a car accident lawsuit may be necessary if:

  • An at-fault motorist does not have insurance
  • Your own insurance policy does not adequately cover your losses when the at-fault motorist is uninsured
  • The cost of your accident-related losses significantly exceeds insurance coverage limits
  • Insurance companies refuse to offer fair compensation for your accident-related losses

You do not have to spend your time thinking about insurance claims and lawsuits. A dedicated car accident lawyer will oversee every step in the claims process. They will inform you if a lawsuit is necessary and lead the process on your behalf.

Steps in a Car Accident Lawsuit

If you choose to pursue a lawsuit after your auto collision, your attorney will:

File the Lawsuit

Your attorney will draft and file your lawsuit. This will serve notice to the court and liable parties that you are taking legal action in pursuit of the compensation you deserve.

Your lawsuit must:

  • Name specific defendants
  • Explain the reason you are filing the lawsuit
  • Contain any other relevant case details
  • Conform to legal and technical standards

States set different deadlines for filing car accident lawsuits. In California, for instance, the law requires victims to file car accident lawsuits within two years of the collision. The clock for filing cases can vary based on various circumstances, and having a lawyer can ensure the timely filing of your case.

Discovery and Other Pre-Trial Proceedings

Your attorney may need to complete several steps in advance of a trial, including:

  • Completing depositions (which you may be a part of)
  • Exchanging evidence and other case materials with the defense
  • Submitting and responding to interrogatories, which are written questions
  • Other steps necessary to move your lawsuit forward

Your lawyer will handle as much of these duties as possible. If you must participate in any way, your attorney will prepare and protect you.

Mediation (Final Negotiations)

Your lawyer can continue negotiating a settlement with liable parties after they have filed a lawsuit. Most civil cases end with a settlement, and mediation is a way to reach a financial agreement.

With mediation, a third party enters negotiations and attempts to unite both sides. This process is non-binding, so you and your lawyer have the right to end mediation and continue to trial. If you receive a fair settlement offer, you also have the right to accept it before a trial becomes necessary.


If your car accident lawsuit leads to the courtroom, your lawyer will:

  • Represent you through every step of the trial
  • File motions and objections as necessary
  • Make oral arguments in favor of your case
  • Present their own evidence and contest the defense’s evidence
  • Questions their own witnesses and cross-examine defense witnesses
  • Handle every other detail of your court case

Though many aspects of insurance claims and lawsuits are complicated, lawsuits are incredibly complex. Having a lawyer overseeing your case will ensure that no detail goes unexamined. Your lawyer will represent you from start to finish.

What Car Accident Victims Should Do to Prepare for a Potential Lawsuit

You can take several steps to serve your physical and mental health and any claim or lawsuit you initiate. These steps include:

Seeing a Doctor and Documenting Your Injuries

Physical injuries are one of the most concerning outcomes of car accidents.

You must see one or more medical professionals to:

  • Get any necessary X-rays, MRIs, or other medical images if injuries
  • Receive precise diagnoses of your accident-related injuries
  • Learn what you should do to prevent further injury and begin recovery

As you receive treatment and learn about your injuries, keep all documentation that can be minimally relevant to your case. This includes medical bills, medical images, your doctors’ diagnoses of your injuries, and recovery-related instructions.

Hiring a Qualified Legal Team

Hiring your car accident lawyer is a priority that can’t wait.

While you will likely need to choose between several law firms, you should make your choice as soon as possible because:

  • Your lawyer needs to secure video footage, witness testimony, and other evidence related to your car accident
  • Your lawyer needs to protect you from insurance companies as soon as possible
  • There may be a strict filing deadline for your case, and your lawyer will likely be the one to file a lawsuit on your behalf

A lawyer will light the way ahead. They will create a strategy for your case and handle as many case-related responsibilities as possible.

Avoid Making Recorded Statements 

You may encounter insurance representatives after your accident. These representatives may ask or urge you to make a recorded statement, but you should refuse until you have spoken with a lawyer.

A car accident attorney can:

  • Handle communications with insurers
  • Arrange for you to submit a written statement (circumstances permitting)
  • Ensure no insurance representatives can undermine your case

Car accident lawyers are very familiar with insurance providers. Having a lawyer lead your claim will be undeniably helpful.

Letting the Professionals Lead the Way

Let them lead the way once you find a trustworthy lawyer and medical professional. Your lawyer will handle all matters related to an insurance claim or lawsuit. Your doctor will provide a clear, detailed plan for your recovery.

You may also seek mental health treatment if you are suffering any form of pain and suffering. Your attorney may refer you to a qualified mental health professional if you need assistance.

Do I Need to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer If I Am Filing an Insurance Claim?

Car accidents on a busy highway road

You are the only one who can decide if you need a car accident lawyer. You should make an informed decision, though, which means understanding the benefits of hiring an attorney (and the risks of not hiring one).

You might choose to hire a lawyer because:

  • You know that a lawyer’s education, training, and experience can be highly beneficial to your claim or lawsuit
  • You want to spend as much time as possible focusing on medical care, rest, and other activities that promote healing
  • You want to minimize out-of-pocket costs related to your claim or lawsuit
  • You value the protection and advice a lawyer provides

You may not want to deal with the many demands of a car accident claim or lawsuit. There are many reasons to hire an attorney—these are just a few of the most compelling.

The Risks of Not Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer

You face acute risks when you handle your own car accident claim, especially if you are already injured or experiencing pain and suffering.

Some of the most concerning risks you can face are:


  • Making a costly mistake: Mistakes that can undermine your case include admitting fault for your accident (perhaps unwittingly), failing to secure useful evidence, and making a verbal error when speaking with insurance representatives.
  • Accepting a lowball settlement (and having no recourse after doing so): An insurance company or at-fault parties may offer a quick settlement. This settlement may not cover your accident-related damages, but you may not realize that. You cannot undo that costly decision if you formally accept a lowball settlement offer.
  • Jeopardizing your health: Should you handle your own case, the resulting stress may take away from your recovery. It can expose you to adverse effects on your physical and psychological health.
  • Being unable to pursue a lawsuit: If you lack a legal background, you may not successfully navigate the demands of a lawsuit. Therefore, you can be pigeonholed into accepting the insurance company’s best offer—which may be significantly less compensation than you need.

A lawyer will prevent you from making these or any other mistakes that can lead to substantial financial losses and adverse health outcomes.

You will not be the first person to suffer these devastating consequences. Learn from the mistakes of those before you and hire your car accident attorney as soon as possible.

What to Expect from Your Car Accident Attorney

Automobile auction concept: Judge's mace on a courtroom table, symbolizing the sale of vehicles by auction or legal rights.

Expect your legal team to manage every aspect of your case. Attorneys usually serve car accident victims by:

Handling the Insurance Companies

Your lawyer will represent you with the insurance companies. Their leadership will protect you and ensure the claims process advances immediately.

Obtaining Evidence from the Car Accident

Your attorney will secure evidence that may include:

  • Witness accounts
  • Video footage
  • Photographs of the scene
  • A police report
  • Expert testimony

Evidence is an important piece of every car accident case. Your lawyer will waste no time in gathering evidence for you.

Proving the Client’s Damages

Your lawyer will obtain documentation of your damages, which can include medical records, income statements, invoices, and expert testimony.

Calculating a Settlement Value and Negotiating a Settlement

Your legal team will identify a precise settlement goal. They will base this figure on the value of your economic and non-economic damages.

Leading Any Necessary Claim or Lawsuit

Your lawyer will handle any lawsuit or trial that proves necessary in your case.

Recoverable Damages Your Lawyer Will Include in Your Lawsuit

Expect your attorney to demand fair compensation for:

  • Healthcare costs
  • Professional harm (including lost income)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental health treatment costs
  • Vehicle repairs
  • Any other damages resulting from your car accident

Allow an attorney to do what they do best—pursue compensation for victims of negligence.

Keith More, personal injury lawyer

Keith More, Orange County Car Accident Attorney

Find the Right Car Accident Attorney for Your Case Today

Because car accident cases generally have statutes of limitations, there is no time to wait before hiring your Orange County personal injury lawyer. Use the internet or other means to find the right law firm for your case and schedule your free consultation. You have nothing to lose by acting right away.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation