Many car accident victims have no experience in the legal system. The thought of going to court for a car accident may sound daunting. Victims often wonder about the process of getting their compensation and whether they’ll have to go through a trial.
In Florida, most car accident claims don’t go to court. However, court may be necessary to achieve justice for a victim. Our Coral Gables car accident lawyers at Maderal Byrne & Furst PLLC explain the circumstances of when a collision case may wind up in court.
When a Car Accident Goes to Court in Florida
A car accident goes to court in Florida because the parties cannot reach an agreement to resolve the case. If a victim has serious injuries covered under Florida Statutes § 627.737, court proceedings may be needed to pursue compensation. For a case to go to court, usually, there is an underlying, significant issue in dispute.
Going to court doesn’t necessarily mean going to trial. Most cases that are filed in court reach a non-trial resolution before trial.
There are three primary categories where a car accident claim may resolve:
Before filing court documents
Some cases are resolved without formal court proceedings. Because Florida has mandatory car insurance laws, most drivers have some resources to pay compensation. When a case is clear in terms of fault, damages, and ability to pay, the parties often negotiate effectively without the need for formal legal filings.
After filing legal documents, but before trial
Going to court requires the defense to formally answer the charges against them. It gives parties the opportunity to engage in discovery, which can help you gather evidence and prove your case. The parties may negotiate a non-trial resolution at this stage. Even most cases that go to court are still resolved before trial.
Trial and post-trial proceedings
If the parties don’t resolve a case by agreement, they go to trial. If a case goes to trial, the jury hears the evidence and decides. There may be post-trial proceedings relating to collecting a judgment or appeals.
My car accident lawyer wants to file my case in court. Why?
The legal system is designed to resolve disputes. That’s the very purpose of it. The goal of the system is not to just conduct trials. Instead, it is for people to receive justice.
Filing the paperwork to start a case begins the legal process and makes it possible to have a trial. Your first court appearance will not be a trial. It will be a preliminary hearing.
There are many things that happen between initially filing a case and the trial date. These proceedings have two purposes. First, they ensure that, if the case goes to trial, the trial is fair.
Second, they narrow the issues in dispute and facilitate the parties reaching a settlement.
Filing a case in court means preserving your rights and moving your case forward. If a case can’t be resolved favorably and timely through insurance company settlement negotiations, going to court is often the next step. Starting a case doesn’t mean going to trial. In fact, there are many steps between filing a summons and complaint and making an opening statement at trial.
Court gives the parties a fair forum to resolve their disputes. The rules for court proceedings are carefully constructed to be fair to those involved. Also, court isn’t something the defense can avoid or opt out of. Once the defense is served with a lawsuit, they must answer it, or the plaintiff wins by default.
Car Accident Court Proceedings
If your case goes to court, here is what you can expect:
- Legal filings: The case formally begins when the plaintiff files a summons and complaint in court. The complaint summarizes the facts and states the legal claims and the right to compensation.
- The defense’s reply: The defense responds to the allegations. Even the defense’s reply can narrow the issues in dispute, showing what facts are contested.
- Discovery: Formal discovery proceedings allow the parties to conduct depositions, issue subpoenas, and ask questions of the other party under oath. Discovery is a valuable tool to build the case.
- Preliminary motions: Either party can bring a motion to court. Usually, motions relate to discovery proceedings or the presentation of evidence.
- Status conferences: The court may call the parties in or ask them to file paperwork. They may discuss things like what motions the parties still plan to file, how long each party needs to present their case at trial, and what else needs to happen to be ready for trial. The parties exchange witness and exhibit lists, which can further expose the evidence and help the parties reach a settlement.
- Mediation, settlement discussions: Mediation allows the parties to explore settlement possibilities with the help of a trained and neutral mediator. In addition, settlement discussions can take place between the parties and their lawyers.
- Trial: If the parties don’t resolve their case, the case proceeds to trial. At trial, each side presents their evidence. The other side may cross-examine witnesses and make objections.
- Post-trial: Even once a trial is over, there may be additional legal proceedings, including appeal.
How an Auto Accident Lawyer Can Help If a Case Might Go to Court
The purpose of a car accident case is for the victim to receive justice. The legal process takes careful consideration, and clients often want to avoid a trial.
Building a strong case with legal representation can put you in a strong position as a litigant. An experienced attorney at our firm can assess your case to determine if it is likely to go to court and what steps to take. They can negotiate on your behalf and advise you regarding accepting a settlement or proceeding to court.
At Maderal Byrne & Furst, we’re experienced litigators. We help our clients succeed in and out of court. We have capable attorneys when it’s necessary to go to court after a crash, and we’re ready to advocate for our clients.
Contact us today in Coral Gables, FL, to talk about your case.