Being in a car accident in the San Francisco Bay Area is stressful and overwhelming, especially if there are injuries. You have to deal with healing from injuries, car repairs, finding rides, and the emotional aftermath.

After a car accident, you may wonder whether you need an attorney. You may not know what to do with the medical bills that may be piling up. You will likely be contacted by insurance adjusters pushing you towards some quick cash to settle your case. Before you settle, you should have an overview of what happens in a San Francisco Bay Area auto collision case.

Meeting with an attorney.  If you were not injured and had minimal car damage, you may choose to handle your case without an attorney. In that situation, you would agree with the other driver’s insurance company to receive a check for the estimated amount of damages to your car. If, however, you had injuries or had serious car damage, you should speak with an attorney. The attorney will ask you what happened and will collect information from you about your insurance coverage and type of injuries. The attorney will also discuss aspects of a legal case such as types of legal fees, a case timeline, and the kinds of costs you should expect.

Filing a lawsuit. Once you have selected an attorney, the attorney typically begins by filing a complaint. This is a court document that identifies the parties, states your legal claims, and lists some facts of the accident. The complaint will be served on the defendant, who is usually the other driver. The defendant will have a set amount of time in which to reply. Their reply, called an answer, which will respond to the complaint’s allegations, and list any defenses they may have. The reply could also contain some counterclaims, which are any claims that they may have against you..

Discovery. Discovery is the process that occurs before a trial. During discovery, all relevant facts and documents are provided by each party to the other side. There are three forms of discovery – written discovery, document production, and depositions.

Written discovery involves answering questions that are sent to each party. Document production involves providing documents, such as accident reports and medical records. Depositions are recorded verbal question and answer exchanges about the accident and injuries.

These three forms of discovery are used to glean all of the facts necessary to build your case. It is important to be honest with your attorney during the discovery process, even about facts that you do not wish to be made public.

Motions. As part of your case, there may be motions made by one or both sides. Motions are requests that an attorney files with the court asking for a ruling. Some common motions include a motion to dismiss the case or a motion for summary judgment (both of which end a case before trial).

Settlement. Most automobile accident cases are settled before trial, or out of court. Litigation is expensive, time consuming, and slow. During the discovery process, both sides get a good idea of the other’s case, and an experienced attorney can help advise you on how your case may turn out if you go to trial. An experienced attorney can craft a settlement before a trial on your case. Before negotiating a settlement, an attorney will ask you what you are willing to give up in order to avoid going to trial.

Trial. If you are unable to reach a settlement, your case will be heard by a judge or a jury, who will decide on a resolution.. You will have to prove that the other driver was legally responsible for your damages/injuries, and how much your injuries are worth. Trials can last a day or two, or could go for weeks, if they involve complex injuries.

Collecting your judgment money. If you are owed some money after a trial, you have the task of collecting it. It can take work to collect what you are legally owed after a trial. Your attorney should be able to assist you in your collection efforts.

Appeal. If either side is unhappy with the trial decision, that side can appeal the ruling. An appeal is very different than the trial because there is no fact-finding. Instead, an appeal only looks at how the trial court applied the law to the facts. An experienced attorney can explain how other appeals have decided similar questions.

If you have been involved in a San Francisco Bay Area automobile accident, you may be overwhelmed at the steps involved in pursuing resolution to your case.  An experienced attorney can help your case proceed much more smoothly. If you have been involved in an automobile accident in San Francisco, Oakland, or the Bay Area, call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco automobile accident attorney at 510-645-1000 to learn more or to schedule a free consultation.

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