Understanding the Steps Involved in a Georgia Personal Injury Auto Accident Lawsuit
Whether you are a pedestrian run down by an intoxicated driver or a passenger in a vehicle rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, there is a significant risk that those involved in motor vehicle collisions will suffer injuries that cause physical challenges and intense emotions. These hardships frequently are compounded by financial pressure resulting from time off work, medical expenses and vehicle repair costs. Although those injured in motor vehicle collisions often have the legal right to seek financial compensation from drunk drivers, distracted drivers, reckless drivers and others engaged in negligent conduct, our Atlanta Auto Accident Lawyers recognize that the legal process can seem incomprehensible and complex. While a large percentage of cases are settled without the filing of a lawsuit, and without going to trial in those cases where a lawsuit is filed, in this legal blog article we have provided an overview of the major steps involved in litigation of a motor vehicle accident claim in Georgia.
Pre-Litigation Actions: The initial step in the process of seeking financial recovery in a personal injury lawsuit usually begins with seeking legal advice. The civil litigation system is filled with complicated procedural, substantive and evidentiary rules so it is virtually impossible for a layperson to effectively navigate this process without legal representation. Our Atlanta Personal Injury Attorneys offer injury victims a free initial consultation so that we can assess their legal rights and remedies. If we end up representing an individual, we take over negotiations with the other driver's insurance company and conduct an appropriate investigation of the facts as well as legal research so that we can build a compelling case for our client's recovery.
Initiating Litigation: Sometimes a lawsuit will settle during this preliminary stage after we contact the insurance company, but there are times when formal litigation needs to be initiated. While most personal injury cases are resolved without a trial, we file a legal complaint in the appropriate court which initiates a lawsuit by indicating that the defendant is being sued for damages and sets forth in broad terms the nature of relief being sought. Once the defendant has been served with a complaint, the defendant will have a fixed period of time to file an answer. The answer will essentially allow the defendant to admit or deny the allegations in the complaint and assert any affirmative defenses. If the defendant also suffered injuries in the auto accident, and feel that the plaintiff caused those injuries, he or she may file a counterclaim also asking for damages. The complaint and answer are collectively referred to as the "pleadings."
Discovery Process: Once each party has broadly set forth their allegations and defenses respectively, each party will engage in the discovery process. Discovery is the formal process through which each party seeks information, documents, witness depositions and other applicable evidence from the other party. Some of the types of discovery tools routinely used include:
- Interrogatories: These are written questions that are asked of the other party who must provide written answers.
- Document Requests: While the name of this tool may differ slightly based on the jurisdiction, the function is to provide a way to request that the other side furnish relevant documents.
- Depositions: This is an opportunity to ask questions of a witness or party in the presence of a court reporter under oath.
- Requests for Admission: This discovery tool allows a party to request that the other party either expressly admit or deny certain facts.
Admittedly, this is a simplified overview of the discovery process which can be one of the most vital steps in a personal injury lawsuit because it may lead to the discovery of critical evidence.
Legal Motions: This is the stage of the legal process where either party can argue the facts and law to have certain matters decided prior to trial. Common example of motions filed and argued prior to trial include:
- Motion for Summary Judgment. In simple terms, this motion is typically brought to have the judge decide the case for the moving party because there are no issues of material fact entitling the moving party to a judgment based on the undisputed facts.
- Motion in Limine: This motion requests the court to have specific evidence excluded from trial.
- Motion to Compel Discovery: This motion seeks to require a party to comply with specific discovery requests.
Settlement Conferences/Negotiations: Most states require some type of formal settlement hearing like a pretrial settlement conference prior to a case proceeding to trial. The case also may be sent to arbitration or mediation. In addition, the parties will negotiate throughout the settlement process to resolve the legal matter. Most cases settle without the need for a trial through these formal and informal settlement efforts.
Trial: If an acceptable settlement cannot be reached by the parties, the case will proceed to trial. Both parties will present evidence according to formal procedural, court and evidentiary rules. Once the evidence and arguments are presented to the jury, the jury will reach a verdict that determines whether the defendant is liable for the injuries to the plaintiff and the appropriate amount of damages.
Appeals: Either party might decide to appeal the verdict based on the grounds that the verdict is not legally correct.
Put Our Law Firm's Over 35 Years of Experience to Work For Your Case
We recognize that you may have more specific questions about the settlement or litigation process so we invite you to contact us to schedule a free consultation. If you or a close family member experiences is injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Our Atlanta Auto Accident Lawyers at Montlick and Associates have been representing injury victims for over thirty years throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast, including but not limited to all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.