Accidents can be traumatic. When an accident happens, the victim is likely to be disoriented, confused, and unaware of what to do next. In the heat of the moment shortly following an accident, it can be difficult (or impossible) to rationally consider the next steps to take in order to maximize your ability to recover compensation for an accident.
What should I do immediately after an accident?
It is essential after you are involved in an accident that you do not admit fault for the accident to anyone. Admitting fault may reduce your ability to recover compensation for injuries sustained during the accident and can be used against you if your case proceeds to trial.
Additionally, it is important that you seek medical attention shortly after being involved in an accident. In many cases, victims in an accident will report to responding officers and others that they feel “fine.” While you may believe this to be the case, injuries and symptoms often appear in the days following an accident after the adrenaline and stress of the accident has worn off.
If you are involved in an accident call the police immediately and obtain a police report. Do not speak with the opposing party or his or her insurance company.
It is in your best interest to hire and consult with an attorney as quickly as possible after an accident. Schedule a consultation and sit down with the attorney and discuss the specifics of your cases. The attorney will ask you about the specifics of your accident – how it happened, where it happened, the circumstances leading up to the accident, etc.
Once the attorney has heard the details of your accident, he or she may decide to proceed with your case or decline to take the case and refer you to another attorney.
What will my personal injury attorney do for my case?
Despite the common perception that attorneys are always in the courtroom at trial, the reality is that lawsuits are expensive, time-consuming affairs that can be both physically and emotionally draining on the victim of an accident. Depending on the case, it may be economically and pragmatically advantageous for both parties to reach a settlement agreement before a lawsuit is even filed.
Essentially, when a settlement is reached, the plaintiff/victim of an accident will agree to forgo their right to sue the defendant in exchange for monetary compensation. Frequently, insurance companies will attempt to settle with the victim of an accident shortly after the accident occurs. This is done in an attempt to get the victim to agree to a lower settlement than he or she deserves, before the victim has secured the counsel of an attorney.
If you have been involved in an accident and the other driver’s insurance company has offered you a settlement, it is not too late to speak with an attorney. An attorney can negotiate with the other driver’s insurance company and ensure that you receive just compensation for any injuries you sustained as a result of the other driver’s negligence or carelessness. Insurance companies do not want the case to proceed to trial – this is an expensive, time-consuming process – without the counsel of an attorney, the insurance company has little fear that your case will go to trial.
What happens if I can’t settle my case?
Even if an informal settlement can not be reached, the negotiations between each side will continue as a lawsuit is filed and works its way through the court system. As the case proceeds and both sides learn more about the merits of either side’s case, the incentive to settle may increase or decrease depending on how strong the case is.
For many victims of accidents, filing a lawsuit can increase their bargaining position with the other driver’s insurance company and improve their chances of receiving a just and beneficial settlement for their injuries.
Personal injury lawsuits in Nevada: What happens?
If you and your attorneys are unable to reach a satisfactory settlement with the opposing party, typically the next step will be to file a lawsuit. To initiate the lawsuit, your attorney will file what is known as the “complaint.” The complaint will outline your case and explain the legal arguments on which you will be proceeding. The complaint will also explicitly state the compensation you seek for your injuries.
Once the complaint has been filed and the opposing party and his or her insurance company have been served with notification that they are being sued, the opposing party will file a document with the court called an “answer.” The answer is the defendant’s response to the claims made by the plaintiff.
Once the suit has been initiated and the complaint and answer have been filed, the next step in the legal process is known as discovery. Discovery is the stage in which both sides will have an opportunity to learn about the facts and circumstances of the case from the opposing party.
Discovery is conducted through a variety of methods. One of the tools of discovery available to attorneys are interrogatories. Interrogatories are written questions that are then sent to the opposing party. The opposing party is required to answer the interrogatories, which allows the opposing party to obtain significant information about the accident underlying the lawsuit.
In addition to interrogatories, the parties will have the opportunity to question one another face-to-face during depositions. During a deposition, the plaintiff or the defendant (or witnesses) may be questioned by opposing counsel under oath, giving each side the opportunity to obtain information not covered by the interrogatories and to get a sense of what a witness or the opposing party will say at trial.
The conclusion of discovery marks another strong opportunity for the parties to attempt to reach a settlement. Once discovery has been conducted, both sides will have a more complete view of the facts and circumstances leading up to the accident, and depending upon the information that comes to light during discovery and upon the relative merits of each side’s claim, the insurance company may be strongly motivated to settle the case before proceeding to trial.
What happens if no settlement is reached?
If no settlement is agreed upon by the parties, the case will proceed to trial. The truth is that few cases make it to this stage. The process is long and expensive, and in most cases, it makes sense financially to settle before trial. However, you need an attorney who is experienced at trial who will advocate effectively on your behalf in the event the case does proceed to trial.
Having such an attorney can greatly improve your bargaining position with the opposing party. If the case proceeds to trial, a jury will be selected. Once the jury has been selected, each party’s counsel will give opening statements, outlining their arguments and expectations. At the conclusion of the opening statements, each side will have the opportunity to put on evidence supporting their case. This evidence can include the testimony of witnesses, including responding officers and other eyewitnesses, and the plaintiff and defendant may testify on their own behalf.
After evidence is presented and each side rests its case, each party’s counsel will give closing statements to the jury, summarizing their position and explaining to the jury what conclusions that side thinks the jury should draw from the evidence presented. At the conclusion of the closing arguments, the jury will be given instructions on the legal standards with which they are to make their decision and will then deliberate until a verdict is reached.
Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, our Nevada personal injury lawyers may be able to help you settle or win your case.
For a free consultation, call us or fill out the form on this page. One of our experienced Nevada personal injury attorneys will get back to you promptly to discuss how we can help you get the compensation you need and deserve.
Also see our article on Nevada attorneys’ fees.