The aftermath of a car accident can be stressful and scary, especially if you suffered injuries or had severe damage to your vehicle.
Understandably, you may consider filing a car accident lawsuit in order to get compensation. If you’ve never filed a personal injury lawsuit, however, the process can be complex and overwhelming.
That’s why the experienced legal team at Gemma Law Associates has outlined how to file a car accident injury claim below.
Keep the statute of limitations in mind
The most important thing to know about your car accident injury claim is that there is a time limit, called a statute of limitations.
In Rhode Island, the statute of limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit is three years from the date of the accident.
You have three years from the time the accident occurs to file a personal injury claim. If you’re seeking compensation for damage to property, like your vehicle, you have ten years from the date of the accident.
If someone you love was killed in the car accident, there’s a separate statute of limitations deadline for filing a wrongful death claim. The deceased person’s family may file a claim within three years following their death, as opposed to the date of the accident itself.
If you wait too long to file your car accident claim and the deadline has already passed, the other party can ask the court to dismiss the case, which a court is likely to do. That’s why it’s so important to keep the statute of limitations in mind if you want to file a claim.
File a lawsuit in District Court
In some states, car accident lawsuits are handled in small claims court. Small claims cases usually involve claims with low dollar value, speeding up the process and keeping expensive legal fees relatively low.
The maximum dollar amount that can be awarded defines a small claims case; in Rhode Island, the maximum damages is $2,500. In other states, the limits may range from $3,000 to $15,000.
However, personal injury cases related to car accidents are technically not heard as small claims cases in Rhode Island. Car accident lawsuits are filed in the Rhode Island District Court, which has adopted a different set of forms and procedures that don’t require legal training to understand.
To start your car accident claim, you’ll file a Notice of Suit – Complaint. The complaint asks for an explanation of the situation, the monetary amount you feel you are owed, and the defendant’s information. After your complaint is filed, your car accident claim has officially begun.
Prepare for trial
The defendant (the person you’re suing) has a chance to respond to your complaint in a formal Notice of Suit – Answer. They can respond with any legal defenses and admit or deny the allegations in your complaint.
Then, the discovery process allows each party to plan their side of the case and build evidence to prepare for court. During discovery, each side may gather witness statements, testimonies, and documents as evidence.
Settlement negotiations may also occur through discovery, right up until the jury reaches a verdict on your claim. If a settlement cannot be reached, you may go to mediation, where an unbiased third party tries to help resolve the conflict. This is optional, and it’s less formal than heading to trial.
If an agreement can’t be reached during mediation, you’ll proceed to trial. Since you initiated the claim, it is up to you to prove that the defendant was at fault. The jury or judge will decide in favor of you or the defendant; if they decide in your favor, the defendant must pay damages.
How a Rhode Island car accident injury attorney can help
You’re not required to have an attorney to file a car accident injury suit in Rhode Island, but it can be very helpful.
Although the Rhode Island District Court has a separate, simpler process for personal injury cases involving motor vehicle accidents, understanding the laws and rules of evidence can still be difficult if you’re not experienced with law.
Without a personal injury attorney at your side, you may not receive the outcome of your claim that you were hoping for.
A personal injury attorney at Gemma Law can help you build a case for your claim by communicating with those involved in the accident and gathering evidence from medical professionals and law enforcement.
Before a car accident claim gets to court, insurance adjusters will try to negotiate a settlement to prevent the lawsuit from being filed. An attorney can help you settle, or continue to pursue your claim for monetary compensation.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident in Rhode Island, Gemma Law Associates, Inc. can help you file a car accident claim.
We’ll gather necessary evidence, develop a plan for your claim, file a lawsuit, and guide you through the trial process.