What Happens When You Go to Court for a Car Accident?
It is rare for a car accident case to go to trial in Arizona. Your case may have to go to court, however, if you run into complications such as the insurance company wrongfully denying your claim. Going to court can seem daunting, but a personal injury lawyer can help you through the legal process. Knowing what to expect from your car accident trial can help you prepare.
Filing Your Claim
To initiate the court process, you or your Phoenix car accident attorney will need to file a lawsuit with the civil courts in the county where the crash occurred or the county where the defendant lives. Arizona has a deadline for filing this type of claim. In general, you must bring your claim within no more than two years of the date of your collision. If you miss this deadline, called a statute of limitations, the courts in Arizona will most likely refuse to hear your case.
The courts will set a date for your car accident trial. Once this date arrives, the first step will be jury selection. You will present your case before a panel of 12 jurors. Your attorney and the other driver’s attorney will be able to ask potential jurors a series of questions until they agree upon 12 participants. These questions will determine if any of the potential jurors have biases or other issues that make them unable to judge the case impartially.
Your trial will begin with opening statements from both sides of the case. Your side of the case, the plaintiff’s side, will be able to speak first since the burden of proof in a civil trial rests with the plaintiff, not the defendant. It is the plaintiff’s duty to prove the defendant caused the injuries and losses. Your lawyer can help you with this burden of proof, beginning with a strong opening statement. The opening statements serve to establish what each side will attempt to prove during the trial.
The next stage of a car accident trial is the presentation of evidence and witnesses. Both sides of the case will present evidence supporting his or her argument. Evidence during a car accident trial often includes photographs, surveillance footage, eyewitness statements, police reports, medical records and testimony from experts.
The burden of proof in a car accident case is a preponderance of the evidence: enough evidence to prove the defendant’s negligence as more likely than not to be true. A lawyer can help you gather enough evidence to meet this burden of proof. Each side of the case will have the chance to cross-examine the other side’s witnesses.
Closing Arguments and Jury Deliberation
At the conclusion of the case, after both sides have presented all of their available evidence, they will give their closing arguments. The closing arguments are summaries of the information given. The closing arguments will also state how each attorney hopes the jury will rule. Your lawyer, for example, may give the desired verdict amount to help the jury come up with a fair award should the outcome be positive. Once the closing arguments have been made, the jury will receive their instructions and enter into deliberation.
The jury will analyze all of the information presented by both sides and determine whether the plaintiff provided enough proof of the defendant’s negligence to meet the requirements. If so, the jury will rule in the plaintiff’s favor and award an amount the defendant must pay in damages. Damages can include medical bills, vehicle repairs, pain and suffering, legal fees, and lost wages. The verdict will signify the end of the trial. However, either side will have the right to file an appeal if he or she does not agree with the jury’s decision.
If you believe your car accident case will go to court in Arizona, contact an attorney for further assistance with the complicated legal process. A lawyer can protect your rights throughout each stage.