When it comes to a personal injury case, the accident itself is only the start of a lengthy process. Though only a small percentage of these cases go to trial, it pays to be prepared. Knowing what to expect when you appear in court can calm your nerves and give you the confidence needed to present yourself in the best manner.
No one wants to go to trial—it’s a long process that costs money and can be a gamble for both sides. In many cases, a settlement is preferable to laying all of your cards on the table and allowing the court to determine the outcome. Around 95% of all civil cases settle out of court. This means they never receive a verdict from a judge or jury and instead represent a compromise between the plaintiff (you) and the defendant (the at-fault party or their insurance company).
But in those instances in which auto accident and personal injury claims do go to trial, it helps to know what to expect.
In the state of Georgia, “small claims” hearings are held in the Magistrate Court. Many people whose injury claims don’t amount to more than $15,000 have their cases handled here. However, when your claim involves serious injuries and requests for compensation valued at more than $15,000, your case will likely be heard in a State Court. It’s important to hire an attorney in these higher-value personal injury cases.
Before your case goes to court, you and your attorney will spend months preparing. You will have likely finished your medical treatments and time will be spent gathering all of the documentation needed to present your case to the court.
Pre-trial procedures may require you to go to court for preliminary motions, though many of these can be handled by your attorney without you setting foot in the courthouse. The discovery stage of a case also occurs before trial, when both sides spend time gathering facts and sharing their information. The defense may request, for instance, that you undergo a physical exam by one of their specialists or even receive a mental exam.
Anytime you are required to appear before a judge, it’s important that you take care with your appearance. You don’t need to spend a lot on a new suit, but dress as if you have an important job interview. How you look will indicate to the judge how seriously you are taking this matter.
While the courts may have kept you waiting for months, this isn’t the time to return the “favor”. Be on time for all court appearances. More than likely you’ll set up a time to meet with your attorney outside the courthouse so you can enter together. If something comes up and you’re running behind, don’t wait to phone ahead and let someone know.
If you are required to testify in your case, you should know the facts of the accident like the back of your hand. Your attorney at The Millar Law Firm will go over your medical record with you and prepare you for the types of questions that you may expect to be asked. The night before your court date, go over the accident in your head and review your treatment and injuries.
When you are in court, be honest about your case and your injuries. Don’t exaggerate, but don’t minimize them. Present them exactly as they are.
If your case goes to trial, it will be the culmination of countless medical treatments and likely numerous attempts at negotiations from your attorney. Now is not the time to give up. Remaining calm and confident ensures you walk out of court with the best possible resolution.