Although car accident trials are rare, they are sometimes necessary. If a car insurance company denies a claim or is refusing to offer a fair and reasonable settlement to a crash victim, the victim may have no choice but to file a lawsuit. If you find yourself in this position, contact a car accident lawyer in Glendale to assist you with the legal process. Your lawyer can guide you through each step and help you know what to expect when a car accident case goes to trial.
The Defendant Is Served With the Summons and Complaint
First, you or your lawyer will file a claim with the correct civil courthouse to initiate the lawsuit. Personal injury actions in Arizona are filed where the defendant resides or does business. If the defendant is a resident of Glendale, this will most likely be the Maricopa County Justice Courts (for claims valued at $10,000 or less) or the Superior Court (claims at or above $10,000 in value). Then, you or your lawyer will arrange to have the summons and complaint served on the defendant. The defendant will have a chance to respond before the trial will commence.
You Receive Your Trial Date
A car accident trial takes longer – sometimes, much longer – than a settlement. You must wait until a date is open at the courthouse. This could be a year or longer from the date that you file the complaint. Your car accident case can settle at any point before the first day of your trial, as negotiations will continue with the defendant.
Your Case Goes Through Discovery
Discovery is a period where information and evidence are gathered by both sides of a lawsuit. Discovery often includes subpoenas (official requests) being submitted for documents, interrogatories (written questionnaires) and depositions (verbal testimonies) being collected from relevant parties, and a defense medical examination (an exam from a doctor chosen by the insurance company). An attorney can help you with your side of discovery, including counseling you on what to say during depositions.
You May Attend Mediation or Arbitration
A judge may order mediation before your trial date. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that is designed for parties to resolve their legal conflicts and settle disputes to avoid going to court. In mediation, an unbiased third party (the mediator) will act as an intermediary between you and the defendant to help you come up with a compromise. The mediator does not have the power to make a binding decision. Arbitration is similar, except it is more formal and could end in a binding order, if desired.
The Trial Begins
When the date of your car accident trial arrives, you and your attorney will arrive at the courthouse for a trial before a judge and jury. Here are the basic steps of a personal injury trial in Arizona:
- Opening statements. Both sides of the case will give opening statements, where they will explain what they plan on proving during the trial.
- Presentation. The plaintiff will present evidence and witness testimony first, then the defendant. Both sides will have the chance to cross-examine the other side’s witnesses.
- Closing statements. Presentation can last several days, depending on the case. Once finished, both sides will give summaries and one last bid to the jury to rule in their favor.
- Jury deliberations and verdict. The jury will receive its instructions from the judge and enter into deliberations. Most juries decide the verdict within a few hours for a car accident case, but the time it takes varies.
If the jury believes that you met your burden of proof by establishing that the defendant is more likely than not at fault for your car accident, you will be awarded an amount the jury believes is fair for your losses. If the jury rules in favor of the defendant, you can discuss the option of filing an appeal with your lawyer. For more information about how a car accident trial works, contact The Law Offices of John Phebus for a free consultation.