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Do I Have to Go to Court After a Car Accident?

Posted on August 24, 2020 in

The aftermath of a car accident can be a scary experience. You may suffer from serious physical and emotional injuries, face expensive medical bills, and lose time at work and with family due to the accident’s impact. You can pursue compensation for your injuries through a lawsuit or insurance claim — but you may also wonder if you need to go to court to receive this compensation.

While you do have the option to file a lawsuit, not all car accidents result in a court date. However, going to trial may be in your best interest depending on the facts of your case.

Arizona’s Fault-Based Insurance System

Under Arizona law, drivers who cause car accidents must pay for the damages of the other people involved in the crash. This is because Arizona follows a traditional fault-based insurance system, which requires drivers to purchase minimum amounts of liability insurance in case they injure others in an accident.

This system allows you to pursue two different pathways to compensation.

  • You can file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s company, or file a claim under your own policy if you have appropriate coverage and the other driver does not have sufficient insurance.
  • You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver in Arizona civil court.

In a typical car accident case, you will file an insurance claim first and proceed to a lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to settle or does not offer an adequate compensation offer. There are some instances where it would be in your best interest to pursue a personal injury lawsuit from the beginning.

If your case involves high amounts of damages that exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits, your attorney will likely recommend filing a lawsuit first. You are more likely to recover the compensation you need through this process. However, filing a lawsuit is not a guarantee that your court will go to trial.

When Do You Go to Court for a Car Accident?

Whether you file a lawsuit after an unsuccessful insurance claim or you are pursuing high amounts of damages, all personal injury lawsuits follow the same basic timeline.

  • First, your attorney will begin the investigation and inform the at-fault party of your intent to file.
  • You and your attorney may enter negotiations with the at-fault party to attempt to reach a settlement prior to filing the lawsuit.
  • If the first round of negotiations is unsuccessful or you do not enter negotiations prior to filing your claim, you will proceed with the lawsuit process and your attorney will officially file the necessary paperwork.
  • Once you file your claim, you will enter the discovery process and exchange legal claims and defenses with the at-fault party’s attorney.
  • Prior to trial, you may enter another mediation or negotiation session in an attempt to reach a settlement.
  • If the second round of negotiations is unsuccessful or you do not enter any negotiations, your case will proceed to trial.

Most personal injury lawsuits settle outside of the courtroom during pre-suit or pretrial negotiations, and if you can reach a sufficient settlement, you may not need to go to trial at all. However, if the at-fault party refuses to settle or offers a lower amount than what you need, it would be in your best interest to proceed to the courtroom.

If you were in a car accident, contact a Prescott Valley car accident lawyer to represent your claim. Your attorney will be able to calculate your damages, evaluate settlement offers, and advise you on the best course of action throughout the insurance or lawsuit process.