So, Negotiations Failed And You’re Headed To Trial…
by Edward Knox
Many times attorneys are not able to negotiate a settlement in your accident case for an adequate sum. There are many reasons but some are that:
The insurance company has denied responsibility/liability for your claim;
The insurance company is dragging their feet;
The insurance company offers an inadequate sum to compensate you for your injuries;
The insurance company will not respond to our demands for settlement;
We are unable to gather needed information from the other side without the use of using “discovery”, which is only available after a lawsuit is filed.
You are required to sue the person who was “at fault” and not that person’s automobile insurance carrier. The actual “at fault” individual has very little control over the settlement negotiations after they cause an accident. You are relegated to dealing with an insurance adjuster that is not “working for you.”
After you file suit, the insurance companies hires an attorney for the person that hit you. The injured party’s attorney must now deal with the insurance attorney and can have no contact at all with the individual who caused the accident.
The litigation process is cumbersome and time consuming. I will outline here some of the steps that it takes to get your case from the filing stage through the trial stage. Your attorney will draft your Complaint and Summons and it will be filed in the appropriate county. You are the plaintiff and the “at fault” individual or corporation is the defendant. The complaint will be served and the defendant has 30 days to file an Answer and can get an additional 30 days to respond.
The discovery phase comes next. Each side can send up to 50 questions to each other that are called Interrogatories. Also each side can send Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Admissions and supplemental requests. Depositions can be taken of both plaintiff and defendant. This is a statement under oath about any relevant fact from how the accident happened, to medicals conditions and even prior medical conditions. Both sides can take these depositions. Your attorney will be present through out the entire process.
The Mediation Phase comes next. In Superior Court, North Carolina has implemented mandatory mediation and your will be ordered to sit down with a selected mediator who will try to facilitate settlement discussions. Each side will briefly present their side of the issues and then the mediator will meet independently with both sides. Many cases settle at the mediation phase.
If your case does not settle, the last stage is the actual jury trial. The frustrating part is waiting for a court date. This date is set by the trial court administrator in each county. It can take quite a while to get this court date. Many times it takes over a year from the date your suit is filed until you are actually in a court room.
There is a lot of work to do to be ready for trial. You will review all medicals, review depositions, and meet to prepare your testimony and that of your witnesses. All records will be copied for the jury to review. All video depositions of your doctors will have to be reviewed for objections. Many, many doctors do not come to court to testify about your injuries and treatment and they testify by video on the court’s television. Trials usually take from two days to two weeks. You will need to be present during this time. You will take the stand and tell your side of the story. The defendant many times does not take the stand. Officers, EMS personnel, physical therapists will come to court to testify.
The fact that the defendant has automobile insurance cannot be disclosed to the jury because of North Carolina’s evidence rules. Likewise, the jury will not know if your health insurance, worker’s compensation or other insurance has provided you help. This is covered under North Carolina’s collateral source rule.
Once all evidence is presented, the Judge will instruct the jury on how they are to deliberate and what they can and cannot consider. They will be given an Issues sheet that they will answer and return to the bailiff.
Once the jury has ruled, they announce their verdict to the Judge. The matter can only be appealed on error of the presiding judge.
Insurance companies are becoming more and more difficult to deal with. Most know that few law firms are willing to try cases any more. If you cannot settle your accident through negotiations, you should carefully chose an attorney with adequate trial experience and one that is willing to put the time and preparation into obtaining an adequate settlement on your behalf
If you are in a wreck, you will receive many letters from attorneys soliciting your case. We suggest you get an attorney with good credentials and trial experience.
Our law firm specializes in handling personal injury cases. If you wish additional information, please feel free to call us. We work totally on a contingent basis and you do not pay unless you win. Call for a free consultation. Eddie Knox and I can be reached at 704-315-2363 or 866-704-9059 (Toll free). Our website is www.knoxlawcenter.com. and my email address is [email protected].
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