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(In America), when there is a traffic accident, it is generally a civil matter that can be resolved between the parties. Several courses of action are available to the parties to resolve the dispute which generally involves property damage and or injury to the parties or to other third persons or property.

An insurance company plays an important part in resolving the disputes but that alone does not preclude the parties from litigating in the court, in addition to filing an insurance claim. The party who moves the court may have some advantage in negotiating or sometimes have the opportunity for a default judgement which makes the option of SUING IMMEDIATELY a valuable tool to achieve or expedite settlement.

Taking some general assumptions in mind such as jurisdiction, value of car, who is at fault or not at fault,the questions presented are:-

  1. What is the fastest way to sue someone in the event of a traffic accident ? What sort preparation can a driver make to move swiftly. Whatever time or day of the week accident takes place, summons served to defendant by next court day 9 AM. (assuming court opens at 8 AM). This will requires much planning and advance prep.

  2. Once complaint filed, would there be greater chance that an attorney will be willing to represent for a lower cost or a limited scope representation with lowered fee than to process the case from scratch ? What would you estimate as the cost difference in % for one traffic accident case for full scope from scratch compared to the described situation where moving party files, serves summons and then shops.Would you say the cost could be more than 50% less or less than 50% less that full scope ?

  3. In your personal experience, has moving the court provided any benefits in achieving settlement / justice over simply letting the insurance process drive the matter ?

  4. Would you be "shocked" if you received summons by the time you woke up next day following the day of the accident ? What would your reaction be and how would you plan the response ? Would you counter sue or just run to the nearest attorney ? ( perhaps your car is still in the workshop causing additional distress)

  5. Finally, what kind of documentation,artifacts can make the moving party prevail ? Photographs, accident witnesses, police reports are all known. Are there any specialized approaches to propel judicial process,negotiation advantage or cause the other party to throw in the towel ? E.g Accident reconstruction report, Expert witness, GIS analysis, other drivers driving history subpoena,proving other driver as negligent/reckless using sources of information other than the accident ? ( How about evidence that driver was distracted using cell phone - compel forensic exam of drivers cell phone) or use car black box report. A well pre-planned strategy could include obtaining subpoenas addressed to some 10-20 parties to discover and open up the other parties such that the party will be compelled to settle.

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Short answer

The general approach and attitude that you propose is a horrible one that would bring an unfavorable result. It would add many months or years to the time when the case would mostly likely be resolved and would reduce the economic value of your case by a substantial percentage, perhaps cutting it in half or more.

Your instincts towards the litigation process in a simple car accident case are all wrong. Lawsuits are poker games, not wars, and lawyers are good poker players.The way to get a good result in a case like this one is to act like you are in no rush, to marshal all relevant facts in a non-flashy matter of fact way that makes the result seem pedestrian and predictable, and to build enough of a level of trust with opposing counsel to make a settlement easy for everyone to sell to their respective clients.

The winning tactical approach in an automobile accident case is MEGO ("my eyes glaze over"), and not "shock and awe". The only people who are impressed by "shock and awe" in an automobile accident case are the jurors, and if you have gotten to a jury, you have defeated your goal of getting a quick result and have probably also failed to get the maximum possible recovery net of legal fees in the case. This because the court process takes a long time to get to a jury and because the defendant has a limited settlement budget and it takes a considerable amount of money to litigate a case to trial that could otherwise have been used to compensate you more fully in an earlier settlement.

Long answer

The party who moves the court may have some advantage in negotiating or sometimes have the opportunity for a default judgement which makes the option of SUING IMMEDIATELY a valuable tool to achieve or expedite settlement.

You are wrong. This is a very bad idea for reasons explained at greater length below. Also, automobile accident cases rarely produce default judgments because defendants with an ability to pay a judgment can hire attorneys for free as part of their car insurance. Usually default judgments are obtained only in cases where you have wildly undervalued your case and are asking for a judgment that is too small.

What is the fastest way to sue someone in the event of a traffic accident? What sort preparation can a driver make to move swiftly. Whatever time or day of the week accident takes place, summons served to defendant by next court day 9 AM. (assuming court opens at 8 AM). This will requires much planning and advance prep.

In many courts it is possible to efile a complaint 24 hours a day. But, one might be wary of filing suit when the nature of the harm (especially physical injuries) was not fully known which could take more time, because if the other side defaults and you don't know the full extent of your damages at that point, you could recover less than the full value of your claim. Also, this is often too fast to determine if there are other parties who are liable of whom you were not aware (e.g. a defective product implicating a manufacturer, an employer who is vicariously liable, family members under a family car or negligent supervision theory, etc.).

Acting like you are in a hurry conveys the impression that you are weak and will settle for a low or nuisance offer. This bad first impression will work against you for the entire time until the case is resolved and is not easily remedied.

Once complaint filed, would there be greater chance that an attorney will be willing to represent for a lower cost or a limited scope representation with lowered fee than to process the case from scratch? What would you estimate as the cost difference in % for one traffic accident case for full scope from scratch compared to the described situation where moving party files, serves summons and then shops.Would you say the cost could be more than 50% less or less than 50% less that full scope?

I would charge significantly more to anyone who tried to do it themselves, potentially damaging their case with rookie mistakes. If it was a contingency case, I might insist on a 50% contingency with a larger advance for costs than in a usual case, rather than the usual 1/3rd. On an hourly basis, your legal fees could easily double. Many lawyers would refuse to represent you at all if you had already filed a case.

Also, don't forget that the prevailing party does not get attorneys' fees in an automobile accident case. If a plaintiff spends too much on litigation, that reduces the amount the plaintiff will have left, net of litigation costs, as compensation. In contrast, a typical defendant's automobile insurance policy provide (theoretically) unlimited defense attorney services without reducing the amount of coverage available to pay an eventual judgment (if any) to the plaintiff.

There is no added value from pro se work in a personal injury case. Pro se efforts significantly reduce the value of the case in the eyes of an attorney.

Anyone who wants to represent themselves pro se in any half way serious automobile accident case is a fool.

In your personal experience, has moving the court provided any benefits in achieving settlement / justice over simply letting the insurance process drive the matter?

The two are not necessarily tightly linked. Often using the insurance process without going to court can lead to a faster resolution.

Would you be "shocked" if you received summons by the time you woke up next day following the day of the accident?

Yes.

What would your reaction be and how would you plan the response?

I would suspect that the whole accident was a pre-planned intentional insurance fraud and would take extreme and unusual measures in discovery and investigation to rule out that possibility. I would be extremely reluctant to settle with you and would not make offers nearly as reasonable to you as I would in an ordinary case because I would not be able to trust you. Your desire for a quick resolution on favorable terms would be spoiled.

Would you counter sue or just run to the nearest attorney? (perhaps your car is still in the workshop causing additional distress)

I would contact my insurance company which would provide an attorney at their expense.

Finally, what kind of documentation,artifacts can make the moving party prevail? Photographs, accident witnesses, police reports are all known.

All of the above. Auto accident cases are won with facts, not law.

Are there any specialized approaches to propel judicial process,negotiation advantage or cause the other party to throw in the towel? E.g Accident reconstruction report, Expert witness, GIS analysis, other drivers driving history subpoena,proving other driver as negligent/reckless using sources of information other than the accident? (How about evidence that driver was distracted using cell phone - compel forensic exam of drivers cell phone) or use car black box report.

The more clear liability and damages are, the more likely someone is to settle. But, it usually takes months to achieve that clarity and there is no magic bullet. Some cases justify intense discovery, others do not. It depends upon the facts and circumstances and the severity of the harm. In a lot of cases, liability is clear at the outset and damages are the primary issue.

A well pre-planned strategy could include obtaining subpoenas addressed to some 10-20 parties to discover and open up the other parties such that the party will be compelled to settle.

This is generally allowed only in the middle part of a lawsuit once there has been a preliminary exchange of pleadings and certain other case management matters and disclosures have taken place. Normally, 10-20 subpoenas at the outset would be quashed as unreasonable and disproportionate to the amount in dispute.

If someone came on that strong early in litigation, I would assume that they had no case on the merits and were trying to bluff me the same way that someone with a weak poker hand might. I would be disinclined to offer even a nuisance settlement, and would do everything possible to slow down the case because your urgency would indicate weakness. It is much easier to slow down a lawsuit than it is to speed one up.

Also, no one is ever compelled to settle. A defendant can always take the case all of the way to a trial by jury, followed by an appeal, which could easily take two to three years. If you want a quick resolution, you need the other side's cooperation.

Postscript

I spent several years practicing in an insurance defense law firm and several more in a firm that brought personal injury claims on a regular basis. So, I am more qualified than most people to answer questions on litigation tactics such as this one which don't have neat, clean answers that can be found in rule books or appellate case law.

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