There is no set time for the legal process of a car accident. Every accident has unique circumstances that will, along with other factors, affect how long the legal process takes. A serious car accident that caused extensive damage and personal injuries will take longer to settle than a small fender-bender. At a minimum, a simple case may take a few months to resolve, whereas a complicated one can go on for several months or even years. This discussion explains how the legal process for a car accident typically plays out in Washington DC.
Who Can Sue for Damages in Washington DC?
Washington DC has its own laws governing insurance and negligence. It is a no-fault insurance jurisdiction, which means that even if another driver is at fault for the car accident that caused your injuries, you must use your own insurance company to cover damages such as medical expenses and lost wages. For 60 days after the accident, there is a period in which you can choose to exercise your no-fault option or bring a claim against the other driver. To do this, your medical costs must be greater than the personal injury protection provided by your insurance policy, and your injuries must be significant. Permanent disabilities, scarring, and disabilities that last at least six months are considered significant impairments.
However, if you were at all responsible for the accident, you cannot collect any damages in Washington DC. This is because of the legal concept of contributory negligence. If you contributed even by one percent to the cause of the accident and the other driver was responsible by 99 percent for what happened, you cannot bring a claim against them. This is different from many other states where shared liability does not prevent you from bringing a lawsuit against another driver.
Filing a Claim for Damages
If your accident circumstances meet the above criteria, you may want to file a claim for damages that can include pain and suffering as well as medical costs and property damage. The first step is to notify the other driver’s insurance company that you intend to file a claim for damages against the at-fault driver.
The insurance company will negotiate with you or your lawyer to reach an amount they think is fair after looking at the evidence presented to them. Of course, the insurance company’s goal is to pay out as little compensation as possible; therefore, if the amount being offered to you is unreasonably low, the next step is filing a lawsuit.
You will have to make a formal complaint to the court, and the at-fault driver will have to answer your complaint. Then discovery begins, which is a formal investigation of the facts of the case. During discovery, both sides have a chance to see all the evidence being presented and interview witnesses, and complete other steps. If both parties agree, at this point a settlement could be reached to avoid going through with the actual trial. The insurance company may delay the process of offering a settlement to wear you down to the point at which you are willing to accept a lower amount for damages.
If no agreement can be reached, a trial will be scheduled. If a jury is involved, the first day involves the process of selecting jurors who will hear the case. This can be time consuming if jurors do not appear or if the lawyers for both sides cannot agree on who should serve.
The trial itself consists of opening statements by both sides and direct examinations. The length of the trial will be affected by factors such as if the case involves multiple defendants, has many eyewitnesses who can testify as to what happened, and if expert witnesses are called for medical reasons or to reconstruct the accident. Cross-examinations will be made as well as closing arguments, and only then can the jury begin its deliberations.
What Are Some Factors that Could Affect my Case?
The length of the legal process for your car accident, whether you may have to go to trial, and what kind of damages you receive are affected by a myriad of factors, including:
- Your injuries from the accident and total medical expenses
- Any disabilities resulting from the accident and your ability to earn a living in the future
- Your current medical status and projected rate of recovery
- Loss of income because of your injuries and recovery period
- Future medical care if necessary
- The court and judge assigned to your case
- Whether your car accident case is a simple or complex one
- The insurance company of the other parties
- Your lawyer’s experience, success rate, and reputation
Choosing a Car Accident Lawyer
Working with an experienced car accident lawyer can relieve some of the stress of the aftermath of an accident so that you can concentrate on your recovery. Your lawyer should be the one dealing with the insurance company; investigating the accident; and gathering evidence such as the accident report from the police, the at-fault driver’s driving record and background check, and your medical records. A good attorney will have access to experts who can testify on your behalf, and they will know how to negotiate a settlement that is fair and covers the damages and pain and suffering resulting from the accident.
Many lawyers offer a free initial consultation during which you can assess their style to see if you are comfortable working with them. Ask them if they are willing to go to trial if the insurance company does not offer an adequate settlement amount. Find out what kind of trial success rate they have. You do not want to be the first case they take to court. Do as much research as you can to see if other clients were satisfied with the lawyer’s experience and the outcome of their claim. Working with a good lawyer increases the chances of your claim being successful and receiving a higher amount of damages.
Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Fight for Clients Injured in Accidents
If you have been seriously injured in a car accident, you need an experienced lawyer by your side. Reach out to Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King. We will explain every step of the claims process and address all your questions and concerns. We will be your advocate and fight to secure full and fair financial compensation for your injuries. Call us today at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland, we work with clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.