DO I HAVE TO FILE A LAWSUIT AFTER MY ACCIDENT?

There are a number of steps that can take place during the course of a car accident negotiation and litigation process.  However, there are a few points to bear in mind:

  1. The plaintiff is not legally required to have an attorney in order to file a lawsuit.
  2. Most auto accident claims resolve without suit being filed.
  3. Many accident claims where a lawsuit is filed result in a settlement after the lawsuit is filed.

   In Nevada, injured victims are constitutionally entitled to a right to a jury trial in a civil action.  However, most auto accident claims settle without going all the way to trial. In fact, it is so stated in Article one as follows:

Article 1, Nevada Constitution –

The right of trial by Jury shall be secured to all and remain inviolate forever; but a Jury trial may be waived by the parties in all civil cases in the manner to be prescribed by law; and in civil cases, if three fourths of the Jurors agree upon a verdict it shall stand and have the same force and effect as a verdict

A CLAIM VERSUS A LAWSUIT

There is often confusion on the difference between a car accident lawsuit and an insurance claim.  This may be because a “settlement” can occur in both situations. In fact, even when suit is filed most claims settle after litigation begins.  In general, an auto accident insurance claim arises when you notify the insurance company of a claim in an attempt to collect damages due and owing under provisions of an applicable insurance policy.  In the beginning, negotiations will ensue between the insurance company representative, aka the claims adjuster, and you or with your attorney, if you are represented by counsel.

If a settlement cannot be reached, a lawsuit may be filed.  A lawsuit is formal legal action that is filed in the civil court of the appropriate jurisdiction.  Suit is filed when a settlement cannot be reached and the Plaintiff, aka injured victim, is seeking to recover monetary damages from the defendant, aka the at fault driver.  If negotiations fail and your attorney is forced to file a lawsuit, the following are the steps she will follow in your case:

Step 1: File a Complaint

A lawsuit is commenced when the plaintiff files a document called the complaint (sometimes called a “petition” in certain states) with the court. A complaint is a document stating what happened, the claimed damages, and the legal basis for bringing the lawsuit. After the plaintiff files the complaint, the lawsuit has officially begun.  Nevada is a notice pleading state, meaning that the complaint gives notice of the lawsuit with minimal facts.

Step 2: Serve the Complaint on the Defendant

The U.S. legal system holds a requirement that  legal notice is provided to someone who is the subject of a legal proceeding. Informing the defendant of the lawsuit means “serving” them with a copy of the complaint, and usually a “summons.” There are special rules governing who may serve the complaint, when it must be served, and how. These rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but in Nevada the plaintiff has 120 days to serve the defendant. This deadline can usually be extended when the defendant is difficult to track down, but a motion before the court is required.

Step 3: The Defendant Files an Answer

In an answer, the defendant responds to the plaintiff’s complaint and admits or denies the factual allegations listed in the complaint. The answer is also where the defendant will set forth any legal defenses to the claims of the Plaintiff.

Step 4: Discovery

Discovery is the process through which the parties exchange information that’s relevant or likely to lead to the uncovering of relevant evidence. The purpose of discovery is to allow for an opportunity for each side to see all the facts.  In Nevada, as in most states, the discovery process includes interrogatories (written questions), requests for production of documents, and depositions (oral statements made under oath).

Step 5: Trial

After the parties have completed discovery, each side will have all the information and will then prepare to present its case in court. The trial will consist of each side making opening statements, the plaintiff presenting its evidence in the form of oral testimony and presentation of  documentary evidence. The defendant will cross-examine plaintiff’s witnesses. The defendant will also present its defense by cross-examining plaintiff’s witnesses. In conclusion , both parties will give closing statements.

After closing statements are completed, the jury (or judge, if it’s a bench trial), will deliberate and reach a verdict finding in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant, by a “preponderance of the evidence,” and entering a judgment accordingly (if the judgment is in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant will be ordered to pay damages in a certain dollar amount).

If you or a loved one has been in an accident, the Henderson Auto Accident and Injury Attorneys at the Law Offices of  Laura Payne Hunt, Esq. can make sure that you receive the care you need and deserve, and advise on how to preserve evidence.  If you have been in any type of accident and have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Henderson Auto Accident and Injury Attorneys at the Law Offices of  Laura Payne Hunt, PC today. At our office, we are experienced in helping injured victims get the compensation they are entitled to receive. Insurance companies never have the best interest of the injured person at the top of their priorities.  They want to pay as little on every claim as possible. Henderson Auto Accident Attorney Laura Payne Hunt, Esq. worked for an insurance company as an attorney for 9 years before opening her boutique law firm specializing in helping injured people.  During her time working for an insurance company, Henderson Auto Accident Attorney Laura Payne Hunt, Esq. reviewed thousands of auto accident claims and policy provisions.

         At the Henderson Auto Accident and Injury Law Offices of  Laura Payne Hunt, PC we are here to help you and your family in the event that accidents and tragedies occur.  For any of your legal needs, do not hesitate to contact our offices. The Henderson Auto Accident and Injury Law Offices of Laura Payne Hunt is a boutique, family owned law firm in Henderson that specializes in helping injured people and the community with legal issues involving auto accidents, wrongful deaths, slip and falls, truck accidents, injuries to children, bicycle accidents, dog bites, and all types of injury claims.  Please do not hesitate to call Henderson Auto Accident Attorney Laura Payne Hunt, Esq. anytime you have a legal question or you or a loved one has sustained an injury at 702-450-(HUNT) 4868 and text 24/7 at 702-600-0032.