Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit

by | Mar 10, 2024

When you’re hurt in a car accident, taking legal action by filing a lawsuit is an important step in the recovery process.  However, did you know there’s a difference between filing a CLAIM and filing a LAWSUIT?

While both are legal processes, a car accident claim is a conversation with an insurance company where the accident victim is talking to the insurance company of either the person who caused the accident or, their own insurance company. Alternatively, a car accident lawsuit is a legal action that is seeking compensation – or some other form of a legal solution – as your insurance claim could not be resolved with the insurance company. In most instances, a lawsuit requires filing paperwork, presenting evidence, and possibly going to trial if things are not resolved beforehand.

In this article, we’ll review some common questions directly related to filing a car accident lawsuit and provide some helpful tips and solutions.

Table of Contents

How Long Does it Take to Start a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?

Starting a lawsuit after a car accident takes time, and how long it takes can vary depending on the specifics of the incident. Some important factors include:

  • The complexity of the case
  • Where you’re filing the lawsuit (the county or city where the actual case is filed)
  • If you can settle the dispute before going to trial
  • State laws that determine how long you have to file the case
  • If you’re making progress in negotiations with the insurance company before suing
  • Collecting and compiling evidence and documentation to support the claim made in the lawsuit (police reports, medical reports, witness statements and similar)
  • The volume and backlog of cases being handled by the court
  • The trial process itself
  • Any appeals that may take place after the trial has concluded

If you’re in Chicago, having a good car accident lawyer can help to review your claim and determine if you have a case.

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How Much Money Can I Recover From My Lawsuit?

It’s can be difficult to determine exactly how much you’ll recover as every case is unique however, most personal injury cases settle for less than $10,000. Others settle for significantly more. Talking to an experienced accident lawyer can give you an idea of what you may be able to recover from your specific incident. Some factors that will be considered include:

  • The extent of your injuries
  • Your medical expenses
  • If you’ve lost wages from not being able to work
  • The pain and suffering you’ve endured
  • Damage to your property – car, belongings in the car and similar
  • The monetary value of the insurance policy of the at-fault driver
  • Whether your case will go to court or, if it gets settled before
  • If you have a lawyer – a survey found that people who had hired a lawyer received an an average of $77,600, compared to $17,600 for those who didn’t (source:

Having a lawyer on your side can help to ensure you’re taken care of and will most likely help to recover the maximum amount of compensation that is available for your case.

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How Much Does It Cost to Sue, and Who Pays?

Most personal injury lawyers use a payment method called a “contingency fee.” That means they don’t charge you anything upfront to look at your case or while they’re working on it. They only get paid if they win, and then they take a percentage of the final amount recovered. The exact amount can vary based on where you file, what you and your lawyer agree on, how much insurance money is available from the insurance policy(ies), and the specifics of your case.

In most instances, this is 30% to 40% of the recovered amount and determined, discussed and agreed to before the lawyer will agree to handle your case.

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What Happens if I Lose My Case?

If you don’t win your car accident lawsuit, a few things may happen:

  • You won’t receive any money – that means you’re responsible paying for medical bills, car repairs, and everything else out of your own pocket.
  • You may have to pay some of the other side’s legal costs – these may include filing fees or serving papers.
  • You may try to appeal the decision, however appeals can be difficult, slow, and can cost a lot of money, with no guarantee of winning.
  • It could also negatively affect your insurance – losing a lawsuit may make your insurance more expensive or harder to obtain a policy in the future.

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What’s the Difference Between Filing a Claim With Your Insurance and the Other Driver’s?

When you’ve been in a crash caused by another driver, how you file a claim can make a big difference. The important things you need to know:

With Your Insurance: If you file a claim with your own insurance, it’s called a “first-party claim.” You’re working with your own insurance company, which you have a contract with through your policy. They’ll review the damage and handle your claim based on what your policy covers, like medical expenses or car repairs. This is usually resolved faster as you don’t have to argue with the other driver’s insurance, however it may make your insurance premiums go up.

With the Other Driver’s Insurance: If you file with the other driver’s insurance, it’s a “third-party claim.” This means you’re dealing with their insurance company. They’ll investigate who’s at fault and what damage was done. This can take longer because they have to figure out who’s responsible. Most lawsuits work this way. If it works out, it might not affect your premiums. But remember, the other driver’s insurance company might try to pay you less than you deserve, so it’s smart to have a good lawyer to help you negotiate and understand the process.

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Do I Have a Time Limit to File?

Yes, there’s a deadline, known as the statute of limitations. It varies from state to state, usually two to three years. If you wait too long, you can’t sue for your injuries from the accident. But there are exceptions, like if you didn’t know you were hurt right away, or if a minor was involved. A lawyer can help figure out the exact deadline for your situation.

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Can I Sue Another Driver For Injuries and Property Damages? If so, How?

Yes, if you’ve been hurt in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you may have the right to sue the other driver for your injuries. Some helpful tips include:

  • Gather Evidence: Take photos of the cars involved, obtain contact information from witnesses, recover police reports, and keep any medical records showing your injuries.
  • Figure Out Fault: Work out who caused the accident. This means looking at traffic laws, getting witness statements, and gathering evidence to show the other driver was careless.
  • Tell the Other Driver’s Insurance: Let the other driver’s insurance know you’re filing a claim for your injuries. Give them all the info and proof they need to see your claim is legit.
  • Send a Demand Letter: If the insurance doesn’t give you a fair deal, you can write a letter explaining your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and other costs. You can also suggest how much you think they should pay. Getting a lawyer might help get you more money.
  • File a Lawsuit: If talks with the insurance don’t go anywhere, you can sue the other driver. This means filling out paperwork and taking it to the right court, where you’ll explain what happened and what you want.
  • Do Discovery: After you file, both sides share info and evidence. This could mean giving statements, handing over documents, and other stuff to help figure out what really happened.
  • Negotiate or Go to Court: Most cases get settled out of court. But if you can’t agree, you might have to go to trial and let a judge or jury decide.
  • Get a Judgment and Maybe Appeal: If you go to trial, the court will decide who’s right based on the evidence. Either side can say they don’t like the decision and ask a higher court to look at it again.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Every state has its own rules for car accident lawsuits, therefore it can really help to talk to a good lawyer who knows the laws are in your state and county. Lawyers from Injury Law Support can give you advice that fits your situation and make sure you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries and there are no upfront fees to talk to a lawyer about your case today.

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What Happens If I Have a Crash and More Than Two Vehicles Are Involved?

If you’re in a car crash with more than one vehicle, handling the situation can vary based on the accident’s specifics, state laws, and insurance policies. However, the process is somewhat like filing a lawsuit with just one other driver. If you’re considering a damages claim, it’s wise to reach out to a trusted accident lawyer. Following is an overview of what to do:

  • Gather Evidence: Collect evidence like photos, witness info, and reports.
  • Identify Liable Parties: Figure out who’s responsible for the accident.
  • Consult with an Experienced Attorney: Seek advice from a lawyer who knows how to handle multi-vehicle accidents.
  • File a Complaint: Begin the legal process by filing a complaint.
  • Serve the Defendants: Make sure the defendants are officially notified.
  • Discovery Process: Both sides exchange information relevant to the case.
  • Negotiation or Trial: Try to settle out of court, but be prepared for a trial if necessary.
  • Judgment and Appeals: The court will decide the case, and either party can appeal if they disagree.

Navigating a lawsuit involving multiple vehicles can be complex and time consuming. Having an experienced lawyer can help to protect your rights.

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Is the Lawsuit Filing Process Different if a Commercial Vehicle or Truck is Involved?

Yes, the process changes if your crash involves a truck or commercial vehicle compared to a regular car, motorcycle, pedestrian, or van. Some important differences include:

  • Regulatory Compliance: Commercial vehicles are subject to various federal and state regulations, which can affect liability in accidents and legal strategies.
  • Potentially Liable Parties: Besides the truck driver, other parties like the trucking company or maintenance contractors may also be liable.
  • Insurance Coverage: Commercial vehicles usually have higher insurance coverage, so identifying all potential policies is crucial.
  • Specialized Legal Knowledge: Truck accident cases require specific legal expertise due to federal regulations and industry standards.
  • Preservation of Evidence: Trucking companies must maintain certain records, and gathering this evidence early is vital for building a strong case.
  • Longer Investigation Times: Investigations into truck accidents may take longer due to the complexity and extensive evidence needed.
  • Potential for Higher Damages: Accidents involving commercial vehicles often result in more severe injuries and higher damages.

Having a lawyer experienced in these cases can help level the playing field, especially when facing insurance companies with significant resources to challenge your claim.

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What Happens If Someone Sues Me For Damages After a Car Crash?

In some cases, if you’re at fault in a car accident, you may face a lawsuit from the other party seeking damages. If so, following are some tips on what may happen:

  • Service of Process: You’ll be served with a copy of the lawsuit, known as a “complaint” and a “summons,” notifying you of the legal action and when and where to respond.
  • Legal Response: You’ll typically have 20 to 30 days to respond by filing an answer to the complaint, admitting or denying the allegations.
  • Discovery Process: Both parties exchange information and evidence relevant to the case, such as documents, questions, and oral testimony under oath.
  • Settlement Negotiations: Before going to trial, there might be discussions about settling the lawsuit, where you pay damages in exchange for dropping the case.
  • Pre-Trial Motions: Either party can file motions addressing legal issues or procedural matters before the trial, like dismissing the case or excluding certain evidence.
  • Trial: If not settled, the case proceeds to trial, where both sides present their arguments and evidence to a judge or jury.
  • Judgment: The judge or jury decides who’s liable and the amount of compensation to be awarded based on the evidence.
  • Appeals: Either party can appeal the judgment if they believe there were errors in the trial process or outcome, which can extend the legal process.

As the legal system can be complex, having an experienced lawyer on your side can greatly help with the outcome of your case.

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How a Lawyer Can Help My Lawsuit?

Hiring a lawyer can ensure your legal rights are protected if you’re sued for damages after a car crash by:

  • Assessing if you have a case
  • Filing the complaint
  • Determining where to file the lawsuit
  • Serving legal documents
  • Communicating with insurance companies
  • Gathering evidence and exchanging information with the opposing party
  • Preparing for trial (if needed)
  • Presenting your case in court

Need Some Help?

Understanding what happens after a crash and how to start the compensation process is crucial. Most injury lawyers offer free consultations to assess your case and guide you on the next steps. This helps the lawyer to determine if you have a case and, provide an opportunity to accident victims that may not otherwise be able to pay for high quality legal representation.

Injury Law Support connects accident victims with experienced lawyers for various automotive accident lawsuits. To have a lawyer from our network contact you today about your potential damages lawsuit, fill out the Free Case Review form on this page – the service is free and your information is sent securely to a local lawyer near you.

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