At Baumgartner Law Firm, we understand the concerns and uncertainties that arise when you are involved in a car accident. One of the common questions that many individuals have is whether their case will go to court.
In this comprehensive article, Houston car accident lawyer Greg Baumgartner will delve into the factors determining the likelihood of a car accident case going to court. We aim to provide valuable insights and information to help you navigate the legal process more confidently.
Car Accident Claims are the Largest Share of Personal Injury Cases
Roughly 50% of all personal injury cases in Texas are motor vehicle crashes.
Harris County, Texas, has thousands of car accidents every year. According to the Texas Transportation Department, 239,539 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes in the last reported year.
With that number of injuries, some will go to trial for various reasons.
Understanding the Legal Process with Auto Accident Claims
Before we explore the probability of car accident cases going to court, let’s briefly review the typical legal process involved in such situations. It’s important to note that every case is unique and may follow a slightly different path. Still, the following stages provide a general overview:
1. Accident Occurs- The first stage involves a car accident, where parties may suffer injuries or property damage.
2. Medical Treatment and Documentation– Seek immediate medical attention for injuries sustained. Documenting your damages, medical treatments, and associated expenses is crucial.
3. Filing an Insurance Claim– Contact your insurance company to report the accident and initiate the claims process. Provide them with all the necessary information and evidence to support your claim.
4. Investigation and Negotiation– The insurance company will investigate the accident, gather evidence, and evaluate the claim’s validity. They will then enter negotiations to settle.
5. Settlement or Lawsuit– If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiations, the next step is to file a lawsuit against the responsible party.
6. Discovery and Pre-Trial– Both parties exchange information, conduct investigations, and prepare their legal strategies during the discovery phase. This phase may also involve depositions and interrogations.
7. Mediation and Settlement Conference– Many cases undergo alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or settlement conferences before trial. These methods aim to reach a resolution without going to court. In Houston, over 60% of all cases that go to mediation end up settling at the mediation. Mediation involves the parties agreeing on a mediator, usually a retired judge or a personal injury or defense attorney. The mediator is a neutral party and works to settle the case.
8. Trial– The case proceeds to trial if a settlement cannot be reached through alternative methods. A judge or jury will review the evidence, listen to arguments, and decide based on the facts presented. Most Houston car accident trials involve a jury.
9. Appeal– After a trial, either party may appeal the decision if they believe there were legal errors made during the trial.
Now that we have a clear understanding of the general legal process let’s delve into the likelihood of car accident cases going to court.
Most Texas Personal Injury Cases Do Not Go to Trial
While up to 40% of Houston car accident injury cases may end up in a lawsuit, only about 7% of Texas car accident injury cases get to trial. Most cases settle either pre-litigation, after a lawsuit, or before trial.
The US Department of Justice did a study, and only 3% of personal injury cases in the study were resolved through a trial verdict. The average time to settle auto injury cases was less than other personal injury lawsuits, which settled in about 1.5 years.
Since the study, in Harris County, Texas, the number of cases that end up in litigation has increased substantially, yet most are settled before trial.
Why Do So Many Car Accident Cases Settle Before a Trial
- The cost of lawsuits. Attorney’s fees, court costs, and expenses need to advance a case to trial are expensive for all parties. Expert witness fees are increasing; getting a treating doctor’s deposition can cost thousands of dollars. Not to mention court reporters and videographer expenses.
- Having control over the outcome. Personal injury cases like car accidents usually settle when there is a meeting of the minds that this is in the best interest of both parties to resolve at a specific number.
Well, everyone has heard of cases like the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit. The reality is that the news media picks up on the most significant cases and does not report 99% of the other cases.
Factors Influencing the Probability of Going to Trial
While every case is unique, several factors can influence the likelihood of a car accident case proceeding to court. Let’s explore these factors in detail:
1. Liability Disputes
One of the primary reasons car accident cases end up in court is when there are liability disputes. If the responsible party denies their fault in causing the accident or if there are conflicting accounts of the events leading up to the collision or contributory fault issues, a lawsuit may be necessary to determine liability.
In such cases, the court’s intervention becomes crucial in establishing fault and assigning appropriate compensation.
2. Severity of Injuries
The severity of injuries sustained by the involved parties can significantly impact the likelihood of going to court. Insurance companies are more likely to settle the claims without litigation if the injuries are minor and the medical expenses are relatively low.
However, in severe injuries resulting in extensive medical treatments, long-term rehabilitation, or permanent disability, the compensation sought may be higher, increasing the chances of litigation.
3. Insurance Coverage Issues
Sometimes, disputes between the party’s insurance companies may arise, leading to a potential lawsuit. For instance, if one party’s insurance coverage is inadequate to cover the damages or if there are multiple parties, the odds of a trial increase.
4. Unrealistic Parties or Insurers
When either the at-fault party or their insurance company refuses to cooperate, negotiations may reach an impasse, making it necessary to pursue legal action. Lowballing insurance adjusters have become the norm in Houston for many insurance companies.
When the offers to settle are unrealistic, a lawsuit is often required. Likewise, if the personal injury victim has unrealistic expectations of the case value, a trial is much more likely to be required.
5. Complex Legal Issues
Certain car accident cases involve complex legal issues that require a court’s intervention for resolution. For example, suppose multiple parties are involved, shared fault, or disputes over the interpretation of traffic laws. In that case, the case may be more likely to go to court.
6. Precedent and Legal Strategy
Legal precedent is vital in determining the likelihood of going to court. If previous similar cases have resulted in favorable outcomes through litigation, parties may be more inclined to pursue a lawsuit.
Additionally, the legal strategy employed by the injured party’s attorney and the insurance company’s response can influence the litigation likelihood. Property damage in an auto wreck lawsuit can be one of those factors.
7. Property Damage
A greater chance of a trial comes with minor property damage to your vehicle. Insurance defense lawyers have been successful in many cases where the photos of a car hit show little or no damage. The greater the vehicle damage, the more likely a settlement will happen before a trial.
Why Retaining an Attorney is Best Even When a Trial May Not Be Necessary
Many folks believe that hiring a lawyer is an unnecessary expense for their injury claims. Many adjusters imply that a lawyer may not be needed. One usual tactic an adjuster uses to discourage hiring a lawyer is saying something like, “We accept liability.”
When the insurance company does not want you to hire an attorney to represent you in your car accident injury claim, that should tell you everything you need to know on what you need to do.
The simple truth is that insurance adjusters and insurance companies do not treat someone handling the case without a lawyer the same way they do with an experienced attorney involved.
Often it is only after the victim first talks money with the adjuster that they understand the need to hire an attorney to get fair compensation.
Many Factors Count in Cases Going to Trial
In conclusion, the likelihood of a car accident case going to court depends on various factors, including liability disputes, the severity of injuries, insurance coverage issues, uncooperative parties or insurers, complex legal issues, and precedent. While some cases can be resolved through negotiation or alternative dispute resolution methods, others may require the involvement of a court to ensure fair compensation and resolution.
Get Help from an Experienced Auto Injury Attorney in Houston
At Baumgartner Law Firm, we recognize the importance of understanding the legal process and the factors that influence the outcome of car accident cases. Our experienced auto accident injury team provides you with the guidance and support you need to navigate the complexities of your case.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let us help you seek the justice and compensation you deserve. Call (281) 587-1111!
6711 Cypress Creek Pkwy, Houston, TX, 77069
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