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Why Do I Have To Go To Court After A Car Accident?

If you have been in a car accident, you may or may not have to go to court. In most cases, car accidents are settled out of court, but some do end up in litigation, depending on specific circumstances, if you receive a court summons, or decide to sue the other driver for damages. 

Why You Would Receive a Court Summons

In many cases, car accidents are settled out of court through negotiations and settlements, but in some situations, a court summons may be issued to resolve the dispute. There are several factors and circumstances that could lead to receiving a court summons after a car accident:

  • Disputed Liability: If the parties involved in the accident cannot agree on who was at fault, it may lead to a lawsuit. 
  • Serious Injuries or Fatalities: If the accident resulted in significant injuries or a fatality, there is a higher likelihood of legal action. 
  • Uninsured or Underinsured Drivers: In cases where one of the drivers does not have adequate insurance coverage, a lawsuit may need to be filed to recover the remaining costs.
  • Criminal Charges: If the accident involved criminal behavior, such as drunk or reckless driving, the responsible party may face criminal charges.
  • Violation of Traffic Laws: If the accident occurred due to a clear violation of traffic laws by one of the drivers, it may result in legal action. 

It is important to consult with an attorney if you receive a court summons in a car accident case. An attorney can help you understand the nature of the lawsuit, guide you through the legal process, and represent your interests in court if necessary.

When to Sue for Financial Damages

Deciding when to sue for financial damages after a car accident is an important decision that should be made carefully. This can be a more time-consuming option than settling out of court, but it may be necessary if you feel you have not received proper compensation. If the accident resulted in significant injuries, you may consider taking legal action to help cover medical expenses. Since South Carolina is an at-fault state, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance is not mandatory which means that the at-fault party’s insurance is primarily responsible for covering damages. Before pursuing a lawsuit, it is crucial to consult with an experienced car accident attorney. They can assess the specifics of your case, help you understand your rights, and provide guidance on the best course of action. 

Negotiating Out of Court

Lawsuits do not always lead to a court appearance. Negotiations in a car accident case typically occur before going to court, as both parties, along with their insurance companies and attorneys, attempt to reach a settlement. There are many forms and stages of these negotiations:

  • Insurance Claims: The first step in negotiation is usually to file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. 
  • Demand Letter: If you have substantial damages, your attorney may send a demand letter to the at-fault driver’s insurance company that outlines the extent of your injuries and losses as well as proposes an amount of compensation that you are seeking.
  • Counteroffers: The insurance company may respond to the demand letter with a counteroffer.
  • Documentation and Evidence: Both parties exchange information and documentation to support their positions. This can include medical records, police reports, witness statements, etc. 
  • Negotiation Meetings: These meetings are face-to-face or telephone negotiations between your attorney and the insurance company’s representatives. 
  • Mediation: In mediation, a neutral third party helps facilitate negotiations between the parties to reach a settlement. 
  • Arbitration: Some insurance policies have arbitration clauses. If the parties involved cannot agree on a settlement, they may submit the dispute to an arbitrator, who will make a binding decision.
  • Litigation: At this stage, attorneys present their arguments and evidence before a judge. Litigation is often the last resort when all other negotiations have been exhausted.

The goal of these negotiations is to reach a fair and acceptable settlement without the need for a trial. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to court, where a judge or jury will make a final determination on liability and damages. Consulting with a skilled car accident attorney to navigate these negotiations effectively and ensure your rights are protected is highly recommended as they can present a strong case to facilitate out-of-court settlements.

When to Go to Court

Going to court in a car accident case is typically a last resort when other methods of resolving the dispute have failed. Here are some situations when it may be necessary: 

  • Disputed Liability: If there is a significant disagreement over who was at fault for the car accident and negotiations have not been successful in resolving this. 
  • Inadequate Settlement Offers: If the at-fault driver’s insurance company is unwilling to offer a fair settlement. 
  • Serious Injuries or Fatalities: If the at-fault party’s insurance coverage is insufficient to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. 
  • Bad Faith Insurance Practices: If your own insurance company is unreasonably denying your claim or offering a low settlement, you may need to go to court to hold them accountable. 
  • Uninsured or Underinsured Drivers: If the at-fault driver does not have adequate coverage, a lawsuit may be necessary. 
  • Failure to Agree on Settlement Terms: Sometimes, parties may agree on liability but cannot reach a settlement agreement due to disputes over the terms or the amount of the compensation. 

It’s essential to consult with an experienced car accident attorney before deciding to go to court. An attorney can assess the specifics of your case, guide you through the legal process and work to avoid a court appearance through negotiations, mediation, and settlement. 


What Happens If You Don’t Go To Court For A Car Accident?

If you don’t go to court when required, it can have various legal and financial consequences. The specific consequences will depend on the circumstances and the court’s orders. 

How Long Does a Car Accident Trial Last?

The duration of a car accident trial can vary significantly based on several factors, including the complexity of the case, the court’s schedule, the number of witnesses, and whether there are any legal disputes or delays. On average, a car accident trial can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. 

Do You Have to Go to Court for a Minor Car Accident?

In most cases, you do not have to go to court for a minor car accident. 

If You Witness a Car Accident, Do You Have to Go to Court?

If you witness a car accident, you may be asked to provide information about what you saw, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to go to court. 

What Percentage of Car Accident Cases Go to Trial?

The percentage of car accident cases that go to trial is relatively low. The majority of car accident cases are resolved without the need for a trial through negotiations, settlements, or mediation. 

How Long Do I Have to Decide to Go to Court?

In South Carolina, the Statute of Limitations is generally three years from the date of the accident. If you do not pursue legal action before this time period is up, you may lose the right to do so.

If you are unsure whether or not you need a car accident lawyer, schedule a free consultation with one of our expert car accident lawyers at Philpot Law Firm. They will look at the specifics of your case and guide you to the best course of action so that you receive the compensation you deserve. 

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