WHAT TO DO AFTER AN AUTO ACCIDENT PART 7
The defendant or its insurance company has not offered enough to settle. We have filed a lawsuit to get the money you deserve. We gave notice of your lawsuit (served) to the defendant. The defendant filed an answer (response) to your lawsuit. What happens next?
The investigation into what caused your injuries does not stop because we file a lawsuit. In fact, often, the investigation ramps up. If we have not already, we may hire private investigators to speak with witnesses or subpoena video footage from the news media or nearby surveillance camera owners. We obtained the photo in this article from video footage taken by KTRK ABC13 in Houston from its helicopter that flew over the scene of an accident we filed a lawsuit on for our client.
The parties (Plaintiff and Defendant) will request vehicle and premises inspections. We have attended countless inspections of vehicles involved in accidents to take photographs, download data from vehicles’ computers to determine speed at the time of impact, and take measurements of the amount of crush or intrusion into the inside of vehicle. We may inspect the scene of the accident to take measurements and photographs of crash site markings. Note the white or gray scrape marks on the concrete street to the right of the vehicle in the photograph in this article. Those scrape or gouge marks were 92 feet long (over 30 yards)—evidence that the garbage truck was hit hard enough to flip over and slide 92 feet on the concrete. The video from the school bus that hit our client shows sparks flying as our client’s garbage truck slid on the concrete. Defense counsel argued that the impact was not as horrific as we said it was. We were able to counter defense counsel’s argument by showing them the sparks flying in the video and the 92-foot scrape and gouge marks caused by the severity of the impact.
In negligent security cases (e.g., apartment rape cases, bar assaults), slip and falls, workplace injuries, and similar cases wherein our clients are injured because of a defect on the premises, we request inspection of the premises to take photographs, video, and measurements. We attend the inspections with experts we hire to offer an expert opinion to support your case. Such evidence helps secure proof of the defendant’s liability for causing your injuries. We have obtained aerial photos from drones of dark apartment complexes with no fencing in high crime areas to show the danger presented by the property for tenants like our clients.
Discovery Requests and Responses
We request documentary evidence from the defendant, such as dash camera videos from 18-wheelers, documents from the defendants’ investigation of what caused the accident, and video from surveillance cameras that captured the accident—whether it be an explosion, collision, fall, or another type of accident. In one of our cases, the supervisor of the 18‑wheeler driver that hit our client testified that there was a dump truck in front of his driver with lights that were confusing his driver. We requested the dash camera video. The video not only proved that the lights on the dump truck in front of the 18-wheeler were not confusing, but also proved the defendant 18‑wheeler driver suddenly jumped over to the left changing lanes into our client’s lane when not safe in an attempt to avoid having to slow down for the dump truck ahead as the dump truck’s brake lights came on and it slowed to exit the freeway.
A deposition involves a witness (e.g., you, defendant, a bystander, a co-worker, an employer, experts witness, or physician) testifying under sworn oath outside of a courtroom, but just like the witness is in the courtroom. If the witness lies in the deposition, the witness can get in trouble later for lying under oath. In a deposition, we learn what the witness knows by questioning the witness and sometimes presenting the witness with documents, videos, and photographs to learn what the witness knows based on what the witness sees in the documents, videos, and photographs. In Texas courts, a deposition can be shown in court at the time of trial, so we videotape our depositions, so the jury can see and not just hear them. In our experience, after we file a lawsuit, cases tend to settle only after your deposition and the defendant’s deposition are taken. In some cases, numerous depositions need to be taken to get the full picture of what happened in the accident and the extent of your injuries before settlement talks restart or begin.
The steps described above are what we call the “discovery process.” We use the discovery process to obtain evidence to prove the defendant caused your injuries and prove the severity of your injuries. Occasionally, there are discovery disputes over whether we are allowed to discover the evidence. Typically, when these disputes arise, the lawyers work them out between themselves. However, sometimes the judge in your lawsuit must intervene and work it out for the lawyers.
A “motion” is one of the legal tools used to request a judge to intervene to settle disputes over evidence. Sometimes the defense fights hard to avoid producing evidence, so we have to file a motion with the judge requesting the information we are entitled to. Whether the defense fights or not, we will get the evidence necessary to prove your case.
The defense may use a motion to ask the judge to dismiss your lawsuit if the defense believes there is no evidence that it caused your injuries, or it believes you are not injured. However, that is what the discovery process is for—to reveal evidence of the defendant’s liability and your injuries and fight against such motions.
Once we discover all evidence, we prepare for trial. Depositions can be long, and in rare cases, up to six hours long. The depositions will have to be edited down to present to the jury in a short, clear length that a jury can understand and pay attention to. The documents, videos, and photographs discovered as evidence can be voluminous. They may have to be reduced to the most relevant and impactful portions, to convince the jury that you are right and the defense is wrong. Sensitive information (e.g., social security numbers, birthdays, addresses, etc.) in documents will have to be removed before they are offered into evidence. These are just a few of things we do in preparation for the trial before a judge and jury.
As we prepare for the trial, we also contact the defense to begin settlement negotiations, if negotiations have not already begun. Settlement is intended to avoid the risks and expenses of a trial. The large expenses can include expert witness fees and the expense of your time away from your job to attend and prepare for trial. Remember the pre-lawsuit demand for “big money” damages I talked about in previous articles? The same concept comes into play here. We put the evidence we gathered into a settlement demand letter, video, or PowerPoint slide show to present to the defense or its insurance company to convince them to pay what you deserve. A mediation may be necessary to do this.
Mediation is a meeting between all the parties and their attorneys to discuss your case and settle it without going to trial—if that is possible. The mediation usually takes place at a mediator’s office and lately by videoconference due to COVID. The mediator is a neutral party with experience as a trial attorney or judge. The mediator will assist both sides in seeing the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases. In doing so, the mediator will go back and forth between both sides negotiating trying to settle the case. Sometimes the case settles and sometimes it does not. Believe it or not, most cases settle without going to trial. Whether your case settles, depends on the evidence and if you choose to accept the money offered. Mediations are confidential to aide in all parties being forthcoming.
If your case settles, congratulations! If it does not, time to gear up and go to trial, tell a jury what happened, and allow the jury to decide.
Talk to a skilled Houston personal injury attorney
An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to navigate discovery, motion practice, settlement demands, mediation, trial preparation, and trial. Get the money you deserve. If you have injuries involving a personal injury accident of any kind, contact the Houston personal injury attorneys at BadassInjuryLawers.com today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your options to get the money you deserve.