If you’ve been in a car accident, and want to file against the other party, you must first fill out a complaint form at the civil court in your county. The complaint form is the document that will initiate your case and get the proceedings underway. On the other hand, if you are a defendant (if the other person is seeking compensation from you for the accident), then you must file an “Answer” once you have received the complaint.
Once you have either filed a complaint or answered a complaint, “Process and Service” begins. The clerk of courts will process the complaint document in order to prepare them to be served to the defendant. The process of serving the complaint documents to the defendants is called “service of process.” Although the laws vary from state to state, in many cases a sheriff or a constable is responsible for the delivering the documents to the defendant. When the defendant receives the complaint documents, he or she is allowed an allotted amount of time in order to submit an answer that states the reasons for defense.
Once the documents have been answered and the court has received them, the pretrial proceedings beginning. This is the chance for both parties to exchange information and answer questions regarding the case. These proceedings are called interrogatories and depositions. In addition, this is the time when a settlement can be made, which in turn would prevent the case from going to court.
If no settlement is reached, then the case is more than likely headed to trial. If the case happens to be a jury trial, the jury will be selected by the courts. Once the jury is selected and the case begins, each party will be allowed to make an opening statement. An opening statement gives each party the chance to let the judge and jury know about the evidence and other factors in the case. Most people retain and hire a car accident lawyer, as lawyers have in-depth knowledge and understandings of the court system.
After the opening statements, each party is allowed to present evidence showing their side of the what happened. Evidence usually consists of witness testimonies, documents, photos, medical reports, or anything that will help the case. If the other party has evidence that conflicts with the evidence presented, he or she is allowed to present “rebuttal evidence,” which is used to contradict the other party’s evidence.
This is also a time for cross examination in which you or your car accident lawyer can ask questions directly to the other party. Your attorney may also ask you questions, called direct examination, which gives you the opportunity to tell your side the accident in court.
Finally, closing arguments are made. Closing arguments give each party the chance to once again go over the strong details regarding the case, and to explain why the case should be ruled in their favor. In most instance, the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney is allowed to present the closing argument first, followed by the defendant, or the defendant’s attorney. The plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney once again gets to speak when the defendant is finished. This happens because it is up to the plaintiff to prove his or her case. When the court case is completed and a verdict is rendered, the reasoning for the verdict must be explained to both parties in a way that they can understand.
Going into court alone without the expertise of a car accident lawyer places you at a great disadvantage. CarAccidentLawyer.org recommends finding a competent car accident attorney to represent you, whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant.