The vast majority of car accidents are caused by some sort of human error, which means that the vast majority of car accident victims are entitled to compensation for their injury, loss or damage. The settlement offered by the negligent driver’s insurance company is sometimes enough to sufficiently compensate accident victims for their medical bills, lost income and property damage, but this is unlikely when the crash resulted in death or serious injury. In these situations, injured road users may need to file a personal injury lawsuit to obtain adequate compensation.
Car Insurance in Connecticut
Connecticut used to be what is known as a no-fault car insurance state. This means that accident victims in the Constitution State rarely filed lawsuits because they could file claims with their own insurance providers regardless of who was at fault. Things changed in 1994 when a law was passed that made Connecticut an at-fault car insurance state. This means motorists are no longer required to carry reparations coverage and injured road users must seek compensation from the negligent driver.
The Steps Involved in a Connecticut Car Accident Lawsuit
Step 1: Work the Accident Scene (If You Are Able)
The first thing that you should do if you are involved in a car accident is seek medical treatment. Failing to have your injuries treated could lead to medical complications and also make it more difficult for you to obtain all of the compensation you are entitled to.
If you are able, you should also take photographs of the accident scene and gather names and contact details from any eyewitnesses. Photographs taken in the moments following a motor vehicle accident can be extremely valuable in court for many reasons because they,
- Reveal the amount of damage sustained by the vehicles involved.
- Show what weather and traffic conditions were like at the time.
- Indicate the general condition and state of repair of the vehicle that caused the crash.
- Could reveal that vehicles had bald tires or contained items inside them that obstructed a clear view of the road.
Connecticut law requires motorists to report all accidents that cause $1,000 or more in damage to the police. This should be done as quickly as possible to preserve evidence. Law enforcement investigations into car accidents are usually perfunctory unless lives have been lost, but they will generally determine whether or not the driver responsible committed a traffic violation or was impaired, fatigued or distracted when they crashed. This can be crucial evidence in a car accident lawsuit.
Step 2: File an Insurance Claim
The next step in the process is filing an insurance claim. If you have collision coverage, your insurance company could get you back on the road and then seek compensation from the negligent driver’s insurance provider. This is also the point at which you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
Insurance companies rarely enjoy paying claims, and representatives from the negligent driver’s auto police issuer may contact you for a statement. They could even ask you to sign papers. These are requests that should be referred to your attorney.
Step 3: Consult, Hire a Professional Attorney
The third step is consulting and hiring a professional attorney for your case. Following an accident, it is of vital importance to consult with an experienced attorney, and give them the specifics of your case, including:
- Whether there was negligence involved.
- Your injuries and medical costs.
- Defendant from whom you may seek compensation.
The Moynahan Law Firm provides free case evaluations and consultations.
Step 4: The Attorney Investigates Your Case
Attorneys usually conduct an investigation before initiating litigation. They do this to better understand the facts of the case and ensure that the damages they seek are appropriate. An attorney’s investigation may include:
- Scrutinizing the police report for indications of negligence.
- Interviewing witnesses.
- Checking the scene of the accident for security cameras that could have recorded the events in question.
- Referring accident victims to medical specialists for a more thorough evaluation of their injuries.
- Inspecting the vehicles involved for signs of lax maintenance or botched repairs.
- Consulting with experts such as doctors, physical therapists, accident reconstruction specialists and mechanics.
Step 5: The Attorney Calculates Damages
Once their initial investigations have been completed and the facts suggest that negligence played a role, personal injury attorneys must decide what kind of damages are appropriate. This is done by gathering health care and car repair bills, determining how much income accident victims lost because their injuries prevented them from working and speaking with physicians to understand how much pain and suffering the injuries caused.
In cases involving gross negligence, attorneys could seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. These are damages that are awarded not to compensate accident victims, but to punish negligent individuals and discourage others from behaving in the same way.
Step 6: The Attorney Begins Discovery Phase
The discovery phase begins once a lawsuit has been filed. During discovery, your attorney will seek to gather information and evidence that could bolster your case. This can be done in several ways.
- Interrogatories: These are written questions or requests for information.
- Document requests: Your attorney could request documents such as the negligent driver’s medical records or cell phone activity. Subpoenas may be required.
- Depositions: These are interviews with defendants, witnesses, police officers or doctors that are conducted under oath.
Step 7: Settlement Talks
The courts are severely backlogged with lawsuits, which means that the judge who is assigned your case will expect you to seek a settlement at the negotiating table. If conventional settlement talks are unproductive, the judge could order mediation. This is a less adversarial approach and often results in a breakthrough, but mediators cannot force you to accept their recommendations.
Step 8: The Civil Trial
The vast majority of car accident lawsuits are settled before they go to court, but reaching an amicable agreement is not always possible. If your car accident lawsuit does go to trial, you will not be required to prove the defendant’s negligence beyond reasonable doubt. In civil trials, cases are decided based on what is known as the preponderance of the evidence. This means that your attorney must only convince the jury that your claims are more likely true than false.
Experience You Can Count On
The experienced personal injury attorneys at the Moynahan Law Firm have been advocating on behalf of car accident victims in Connecticut for more than 30 years. If you have suffered injury, loss or damage due to the reckless actions of others, please arrange to speak to one of our lawyers by scheduling a free, no-obligation consultation. If you decide to pursue a lawsuit, we will handle it on a contingency basis. This means that you will pay nothing if we do not recover damages on your behalf.