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How to File a Lawsuit for Medical Expenses After a Car Accident

How to File a Lawsuit for Medical Expenses After a Car Accident

Automobile accidents can be expensive. Not only do you have the cost to repair or replace your motor vehicle, but you may also have medical expenses, lost wages and other accident-related costs. When the insurance company refuses to fully compensate you, and if you and your automobile accident attorney are unable to negotiate a settlement with the party at fault, you'll need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver.

Preparing to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit

There are several steps to filing a personal injury lawsuit. Normally, your auto accident lawyer will handle all of the details, but you should still be aware of the process.

First, your attorney will need to gather some important pieces of information, including:

  • The name and address of the person you believe to be at fault in the crash (known as the defendant)
  • The facts of what occurred
  • An estimate of your accident-related expenses

These pieces of information go into a legal document known as the complaint or petition. It's one of the key documents that's initially filed with the court.

Speaking of the court, your attorney will also have to determine which civil court has jurisdiction over your case. Jurisdiction is often determined by the value of your claim against the defendant. This will vary from state to state, but a small claims court might have jurisdiction over cases worth $5,000 or less, and a county or district court might have jurisdiction over larger claims.

Your auto accident attorney will also determine the appropriate venue in which to file your personal injury lawsuit. Each court usually has authority over cases in a particular region of the state. Depending on court rules, your lawyer will file your lawsuit with the court in the area where the accident occurred or the area where the defendant resides.

Finally, your lawyer will confirm that the statute of limitations, or time limit to file a personal injury lawsuit, has not yet run out.

Filing the Lawsuit

Once your attorney has determined jurisdiction and venue, prepared the complaint and ensured that the statute of limitations hasn't expired, then your lawyer is ready to file the lawsuit.

The exact steps vary from state to state and court to court, but typically your attorney will file the complaint and other related documents (collectively known as the pleadings) with the court clerk. At the same time, your lawyer will probably pay a filing fee.

Once the clerk has accepted the documents, your lawyer will have to arrange for a summons, as well as a copy of the complaint, to be officially delivered to the defendant. (This delivery is known as service, and may be performed by sheriff's deputies or by a company that specializes in delivering court documents.) The summons officially notifies the defendant that he or she has been sued in civil court, and gives the defendant basic instructions about how and when to respond to the lawsuit.

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