A court case can seem to last for an eternity. In a case regarding an auto accident, attorneys help to resolve the matter in one of three ways. Settling the claim with the insurance companies is often the quickest route. A settlement prior to trial is the next fastest way to close the matter. The longest scenario is having the case go to a jury trial, where the judge and jury will render a verdict on the matter.
Reaching a settlement with the insurer makes the most sense when the damages are relatively minor and the offer is reasonable. People often feel they can handle negotiating with insurance company themselves if their case “just” involves a car accident. Legal counsel may be needed, however, even at the early stages of a case. When an accident occurs, it is best to retain an auto accident attorney prior to meeting with an insurer, so that your rights are adequately protected.
Meetings with insurance adjustors may feel informal, but having a car accident lawyer present is still advisable. An adjustor may contact an injured party for a statement just one day after the accident. If an adjustor wants to discuss the car accident, lawyers are better able to handle setting up meetings and such so that you do not have to deal with a lot of questions too soon after the accident. If your auto accident attorney and the insurance company reach a settlement, many insurers will render a payout within a few months.
Barring a settlement, the matter enters the litigation process, and representation by an auto accident attorney is crucial, as cases must follow the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. In a civil matter involving a car accident, lawyers commence suit with the filing of a complaint or by service of a summons and complaint. The defendant can then file an answer to the complaint. There can also be counterclaims and cross claims. The more claims and parties involved, the longer the process lasts. “… [T]he time it takes [for a case] to be resolved … depends on a number of factors… In district court, most cases should be resolved within one year; and in county court, most cases should be resolved within six months.”
A great deal of time in any civil case can be taken up in the discovery process, which allows each party to gather information, and may include:
- Depositions (sworn testimony taken out of court)
- Requests for admission (written statements that a party admits or denies)
- Interrogatories (written questions to clarifying facts)
- Physical or mental examinations
- Requests for production or inspection of documents
Unless there are disputes regarding failure to comply with discovery requests or the scope of discovery, the courts do not generally become involved.
Cases can be settled any time up to and even during trials. However, if no settlement is reached and the case proceeds to trial, civil trials can last anywhere from half a day to weeks. In Colorado, trials generally run about three days. There is always the possibility of an appeal which can add years to the life a court case, but once a decision is handed down by the court, the matter hopefully ends there.