Preparing for Defense After a Car Accident

A car accident is a frightening and sometimes even traumatic event which can have serious consequences for all parties involved. Depending on the severity of the incident, the results could be as minor as a broken headlight or a dented fender, or vehicles can be totally destroyed, and drivers or passengers may be critically injured or, worse, even killed.

Aside from the immediate concerns of damage to your vehicle, physical and emotional trauma and financial losses due to lost work hours, you also have to deal with the complex process of navigating through the legal system once the matter becomes a case in a court. In order to successfully defend yourself should you be sued after a car accident, you must invest time and effort into careful preparation in order to prevail in court should it come to that.

Once you know that you are the defendant in a legal proceeding related to the accident, you should first consider retaining legal counsel. A car accident lawyer can help you understand the legal proceedings you are going to face and can help you negotiate an out-of-court settlement or if the case has to go to court, help you through the process.

You or your legal representative should contact the plaintiff and try to reach an amicable agreement, but keep in mind that an attorney has more in-depth understanding about civil cases involving automobile accidents and is qualified to negotiate on your behalf.  Working out the dispute informally is preferable to having to go to court, and in many cases plaintiffs and defendants agree to settle without resorting to a judge to make a legal decision.

However, there are instances where no agreement can be mutually agreed to and the matter is sent to a civil court judge. To help your legal adviser prepare your defense, you need to take proactive steps to gather all the evidence that is needed in court should your case go that far

First, collect all the necessary documentation and evidence that will be needed in your case.  Gather all the photographs of the accident, written repair estimates or damage reports, the police report about your incident, and any insurance or medical information. Your attorney is also entitled by law to examine the documentation and other evidence that the plaintiff possesses, while at the same time extending the same right to the opposing side’s counsel.

Second, be mentally and emotionally prepared for the legal proceedings themselves.  Make sure that you and your legal counsel have interviewed witnesses and that they are ready to present their testimony in court. Additionally, if you plan to present any exhibits to present evidence or to explain the particulars of the case to the presiding judge, keep them to a minimal amount and make sure that they are concise, clear, and are not confusing.  If asked to testify, do not get overly emotional, rant, or exhibit signs of uncertainty while speaking.  Be factual and use clear, unequivocal phrases.

Source: http://www.monterey.courts.ca.gov/SmallClaims/GettingStarted.aspx

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