Although the vast majority of civil cases involving an auto collision are settled before anyone has to step foot in a court, occasionally these cases need to go to trial. Car accident trials in Altoona can result for a variety of reasons, but in all cases, it is important to work with skilled legal counsel throughout the process. An experienced Altoona car crash attorney can explain each step of the trial process and help you seek a fair recovery for your losses.
Prior to a car wreck trial, a local lawyer can gather the plaintiff’s evidence such as medical records, lost wages, and other economic losses to present to the defense’s insurance company and determine if a settlement can be achieved. Sometimes a settlement cannot be achieved, either because the defense is undervaluing the case or because the two years statute of limitations is running out.
If the case goes to trial, then a plaintiff must file a complaint, which outlines who the parties are and what the claims are. That complaint gets served by the local Sheriff’s Department on the defendant. The defendant’s attorney will then file a written answer to the lawsuit.
The next step in a civil litigation is the discovery process, which is designed to limit surprises at trial so that each side is able to understand the claims and defenses of the other. All involved parties are required to exchange documents and information, such as medical records, tax returns, lease report, video surveillance, and deposition testimony. This allows both sides to predict what the other side is going to present in court, so that there cannot be a surprise document shown to the jury that the parties have not seen before.
Each party’s lawyer has to file what is called a pre-trial statement with the court and send a copy to the opposing counsel. That statement lists every witness and piece of evidence that might be shown to the jury in the court.
During the pre-trial conference, they will schedule a trial date for jury selection and then for the presentation of evidence. Additionally, they may obtain video recordings of expert witness testimony during this time.
If a car wreck case goes all the way to court in Blair County, from the filing of a lawsuit until the day of the jury trial, the process could take two or three years, depending upon the court’s schedule. The amount of discovery will largely determine how long a case will last.
If it is a simple auto accident with two drivers and no witnesses, the discovery phase would be relatively brief compared to a multi-vehicle accident with non-party eyewitnesses. Those people may need to be deposed, which would require scheduling a number of depositions.
Depending on what physical evidence is involved, there might need to be inspections of vehicles scheduled and conducted. There may also be expert reports that need to be prepared, not only on the plaintiff’s injuries, but on issues of liability, such as accident reconstruction.
If there are multiple defendants in the lawsuit, each will likely have his or her own counsel. Discovery will involve exchange of documents and information among both defendants, depositions involving all defendants.
Additionally, the theories of liability might be different. For instance, one defendant might be the driver of the vehicle, another of the defendants might be his/her employer, or the person that lent the vehicle to the defendant. It might be a company that defectively repaired the vehicle. At the trial, the plaintiff would be presenting evidence against each defendant based on his or her liability.
There are many steps and requirements in a civil case, so it can quickly become overwhelming for someone attempting to handle it on his or her own. That is why it is important to seek guidance from a local attorney experienced with car accident trials in Altoona. The hardworking lawyers at Marcus & Mack could guide you through the litigation process and make sure you meet all the necessary requirements. Call now to get started.