How Often do Car Accident Lawsuits go to Trial in Utah?
If you were in a car accident, you may be wondering how the case will be handled going forward. Whether you were injured or not, the case may be handled through insurance, at first. Since Utah is a “no-fault” state for car accidents, you may have to take your case through insurance, first. Still, a case that started as an insurance matter may evolve into a full-fledged lawsuit, with a jury and a trial. But, how often does that actually happen? Salt Lake City car accident lawyer Darwin Overson of Overson Law, PLLC explains:
Is My Car Accident Lawsuit Going to Trial?
The first step in any Utah car accident claim may be filing with your insurance company. Note that we said filing with your insurance company, not the other driver’s insurance company. As part of Utah’s “no-fault” car insurance rules, your first $3,000 worth of injury and car damage may come from your personal car insurance plan. If your injuries were categorized as severe, if someone was killed in a car accident, or if the injuries were worth more than $3,000, you may be able to reach beyond your own car insurance and use the at-fault driver’s plan. This is called a “third party” claim, and works like most fault-based states, where the at-fault driver pays.
However, some cases have injuries that are far too severe for the insurance company to handle outright. Many of these cases may have complicated fault issues that prevent the insurance company from agreeing to pay, or the damages are just too high for the other driver to admit fault. In these cases, you may want to hire an attorney and take the case to court.
Once you file a case in court, it may not actually go to trial. The vast majority of cases are settled, either in court or out of court, rather than going to trial in front of a jury. When we say, “the vast majority of cases,” we mean that about 97% of all cases are settled before a jury verdict.
However, the fact that settlement is common does not mean it is appropriate on your case. It also does not mean you should progress your case without a lawyer, expecting a settlement. Hiring an attorney and filing your case with a court of law can help ensure that your case is clearly stated, and all damages are accounted for. There are some damages that you may miss without an attorney, and that an insurance company may not agree to without the pressure from a court. Some of these may include damages for pain and suffering, as well as damages to punish at-fault parties who are extremely negligent (called “punitive” or “exemplary” damages). Also, an attorney can help you understand whether settling is even appropriate, or whether you may be entitled to better damages if you take your case all the way through a jury trial.
What to Expect in Court for a Car Accident?
Whether you’re the injured “plaintiff” or the “defendant” accused of fault, you may face a long trial. First, the plaintiff’s attorneys will file the proper paperwork with the court, accusing the defendant of being at-fault for the accident. In these papers, the plaintiff’s attorney (such as our attorney, Darwin Overson) explains the plaintiff’s injuries, how the defendant caused them, and what damages the plaintiff is seeking. The defendant gets a chance to respond, and may counter with an accusation that the plaintiff actually caused the accident, and that they deserve damages instead.
After this, the attorneys may place arguments before the judge that the case should continue or end. The plaintiff’s attorney will fight to keep the case going, and sharpen their arguments. The defendant’s attorney will fight to get the case dropped as is. After evidence starts to come together, the judge may continue to hear arguments about whether or not there is enough evidence.
If the case continues, a jury will be assembled, and trial itself will begin. At trial, the plaintiff goes first. They are allowed to call witnesses and present evidence to prove their case. If, at the half-way mark, they have not proven their case, the defendant may win. If the case continues, the defendant gets a chance to present their own evidence. At the end of the case, the jury decides who won, and how much money they deserve.
Anywhere along the way, the case may be “settled.” What this means, is that the parties agree to stop taking the case through court, and they agree upon an outcome. In some cases, the plaintiff may agree to stop pursuing their case in exchange for a small settlement. In others, the defense agrees that the accident was their fault, and they agree to pay damages.
Utah Car Accident Injury Lawyer
Settlement may save both sides the costs of going to court, but is not always the right answer. Especially for severe injuries, take your Utah car accident case to a Salt Lake City personal injury attorney who can help you understand what your case is worth, and whether or not to settle. Darwin Overson of Overson Law, PLLC offers free consultations for injured car accident victims. Call today at (801) 895-3143.