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What Happens If We Go To Court Over a Car or Semi-Truck Accident in Kentucky?

June 26, 2020

Dealing with the aftermath of a vehicle accident can be a stressful and complicated process especially if you or a loved one has been seriously injured.  While most of our cases settle out of court, if a client has been seriously injured or lost a loved one we are ready to fight and go to court if necessary.

This is especially the case when damages are significant, there is adequate insurance to collect such as claims against semi-truck companies or other commercial policies.

Our law firm will only file suit in cases where we cannot obtain the damages our clients deserve with the ability to collect without litigation.  Once the court action is initiated it can take months or years to reach a final resolution.

Our law firm makes every effort to settle a case prior to litigation which may include pre-litigation mediation. We only file suit after detailed consultation with our client.

Flora Templeton Stuart is a law firm dedicated to obtaining justice for personal injury victims throughout Kentucky and the nation.  With extensive trial experience we know how to prepare with the best chance of success if your personal injury case such as a car or semi-truck accident goes to court.

Flora Templeton Stuart was the first female lawyer to try a case in Warren County and has been in court ever since.  She provides personal representation with a local attorney for over 43 years of experience.

Title: What Happens If We Go To Court Over a Car Accident

How Often Do Accident Cases Go to a Jury Trial in Kentucky?

In looking at reported jury verdicts in Kentucky in 2019 according to The Kentucky Trial Court Review at www.juryverdicts.net only thirty-three accident cases resulted in jury verdicts in Kentucky in 2019.

Further, from 1998 to 2019 there were 5,822 civil cases tried and of those from 1998 to 2019 only 2,017 were from automobile negligence accounting for 34.69% of all cases.  Therefore, a jury trial in an automobile injury case is rare as the great majority settle out of court.

What Is a Trial – Anatomy of a Kentucky Lawsuit?

A trial in a civil dispute is a formal court examination of evidence before a judge or jury to determine legal liability between parties.  However, the actual court “trial” is only a small portion of the entire trial process.

Our law firm prior to filing suit would have explored all options of settlement along with thorough investigation of your case which would likely include obtaining an investigator to locate witnesses and obtain recorded statements, photos of the accident, accident reconstructionist to prove liability (Defendant at fault), asset check of the Defendant, policy limits, available insurance such as uninsured and underinsured in pre-litigation preparation.

Our attorneys watch carefully the statute of limitations so the lawsuit is filed in a timely manner.  In Kentucky the statute of limitations of a personal injury case not involving a vehicle collision is one year.

The statute of limitations for a vehicle collision is two years, but can be extended with the payment of PIP benefits.  The statute begins to run at the age of 18 and in the case of incompetency at the time that the person is deemed competent.

Once a decision has been made by both the client and our attorneys that filing the lawsuit is in the best interest of the client to obtain maximum recovery the following steps will be followed:

Complaint

Our attorneys spend hours preparing the complaint to make sure that all parties responsible are named as Defendants, a cause of action is clearly stated, which is where and how the accident occurred, detailed injuries sustained by the client and a request for damages along with a jury trial.

The complaint is filed with the court with jurisdiction and is then served by sheriff or certified mail on the Defendant or Defendants.

Jurisdiction

This is the court where the lawsuit is filed.  In Kentucky state court a vehicle or truck accident case along with a personal injury is under the jurisdiction of circuit court pursuant to KRS 23A.010 as long as the damages claimed exceed $5,000.00.

In a car or semi-truck accident to file suit there must be  a minimum of $1,000.00 of medical expenses, the injury has resulted in permanent injury, a fracture, loss of a body member and/or death pursuant to KRS 304-39-060(2)(b).

Federal Court has jurisdiction if there is complete diversity (all Plaintiffs or Defendants are from a different state) or there is a federal question such as civil rights.  In addition, there must be claimed a minimum of $75,000 in damages.

Our law firm has handled cases in federal court throughout the country which involves complex litigation.

Answer

Once the lawsuit has been filed and served on the Defendants they will have 30 days to file an answer with the court at which time they will usually deny allegations in the law suit and the controversy will begin.

Discovery

Discovery is the process through which the parties in a lawsuit gather and exchange information for a case.

Tools available to parties in discovery include:

  • Interrogatories – These are questions served on the parties to be answered under oath in writing and are limited in number and scope as to what is reasonable and allowed in the civil rules of procedure. There is a specified time to answer the interrogatories.
  • Request for production of documents and request for admissions – These are additional written discovery that is served on the opposing party requesting documents such as photographs, records, etc. relevant to the case and requests for admission for the opposing party to admit certain facts in the case.
  • Depositions – This is the time when attorneys take the oral deposition of the opposing party, witnesses and expert witnesses who have been hired by the parties in the case to include treating physicians. Depositions can be extensive and take days if not months to compete.  Initially, the Plaintiff will be deposed first by the Defendant’s attorney and the Defendant will be deposed next by the Plaintiff’s attorney.  After that witnesses will be deposed and finally expert witnesses.  This can involve extensive travel and expense by our law firm which only gets reimbursed if we win the case.
  • Physical and Mental Examinations – The opposing party may request that the Plaintiff be examined for their injuries by their own hired experts. The Plaintiffs generally rely on the treating physicians for their injured clients.

The discovery process provides an opportunity to see what information the other party has regarding the dispute.  This will allow you to assess the strength of your case and better prepare for the other party’s argument in court or settle out of court.

Mediation

In Kentucky the circuit court judge will usually order mediation with a skilled, neutral attorney.  The attorneys for the parties provide a detailed statement of the case to the mediator prior to mediation where the parties meet to attempt to negotiate a settlement.

A large number of cases settle at mediation before trail and sometimes with pre-litigation mediation prior to filing suit.

Trial Preparation

Trail preparation makes up a large portion of the full court process and includes tasks such as:

  • Gathering and reviewing evidence
  • Conducting legal and medical research analysis
  • Identifying and deposing key witnesses and including expert witnesses, expert reports, etc.
  • Preparing exhibits to be used at trail
  • Investigation of the jury pool (the juries that will be sitting in the case have jury questionnaires provided by the court prior to trial)
  • Preparation of jury instructions

This is an ongoing process that will require constant attention and preparation.  Our attorneys together have tried over 100 cases in their career and have the necessary resources to insure we are adequately prepared to present your case to the jury so we can obtain maximum recovery.

Pretrial Compliance

Prior to the trial date the Judge will order parties to exchange discovery, list all witnesses they intend to bring to trial, provide reports of all expert witnesses who will be testifying at court.

During that time the parties will also exchange exhibits to be used at trial as ordered by the court.

Jury Selection

Jury selection, also known as “voir dire” is the process for which potential jurors can be examined and selected or removed with or without cause.

Removal of a jury can be  for cause where a juror has personal information or relationship with the parties or witnesses that may affect their judgement in the case or prejudices that may affect their ability to be a fair and neutral juror.

The parties each have a certain number of strikes without cause before the final jury is selected.  Jury selection often plays a vital role in the outcome of a lawsuit.  The Commonwealth of Kentucky qualifies individuals for jury service each juror must:

  • Be a United States citizen
  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Be a resident of the county which summoned the person
  • Be able to speak or understand English
  • Not be currently under indictment
  • Not have been convicted of a felony unless the person received a full pardon, partial pardon with civil rights restored, vacated the conviction
  • Has not served on a jury within the past 24 months

The seating trial judge will question the jury to make sure that they are qualified to serve.

Trial

The sequence of events:

  • Opening statements – The first steps in a trial are the opening statements presented by the Plaintiff’s attorney in their personal injury case where they outline the proof to be presented to the jury. The Defendant’s attorney give opening statements after the Plaintiff’s attorney outlining their defense and witnesses they will present to the jury during the trial.
  • Examination of Witnesses – After the opening statements the Plaintiff’s attorney present the case with witnesses and documentary evidence which can include photographs and videos relevant to the case. The presentation begins with direct examination of the witness and cross examination by the opposing party.  Once the Plaintiff’s attorney has completed the presentation of the case the Defendant’s case is presented in the same format as the case of the Plaintiff.  If either party objects to evidence the Court will rule on that objection during the trial.
  • Judge’s Instructions – After all the witnesses and evidence has been presented the Judge will instruct the jury on the issues to be decided and the rule of law to apply in the case. The Judge will explain the law to the jury. Throughout the trial the Judge must remain neutral.
  • Closing Arguments – After the Judge has instructed the jury in the law the Defendant’s attorney will remind the jury of the evidence and argue their case. The Plaintiff’s attorney goes last in making arguments before the jury.  Both attorneys will attempt to persuade the jury to rule in their favor based on the evidence that has been presented at trial.
  • Jury Room – The jury then exits the courtroom into a separate room to discuss the case and render a verdict.
  • Presentation of the Verdict – In Kentucky circuit court cases at last ¾ or 9 of the 12 jurors must agree in order to return a verdict. There will be 12 jurors selected plus one alternate in the event that one must leave before the verdict is rendered.  Once the jury has a verdict they will return to the courtroom and hand the verdict to the judge who will read the verdict.  If no verdict can be reached by the jury because the cannot agree a mistrial can be declared.  In this case, unfortunately, a new trial would be ordered.
  • Appeal – If either party objects to the verdict they have a right to appeal which can further extend the time it takes to resolve the case for one to two years.

The more extensive your preparations leading up to the trail, the better chance you will have at a favorable resolution of your claims.  For this reason, it is important to choose a law firm with years of trial experience who can navigate this complex process of your advantage.

Get a Free Case Review Today

what happens if we go to courtFlora Templeton Stuart is a nationally recognized Bowling Green personal injury law firm with over 43 years of experience.

Not only do we have experience representing personal injury victims but we only represent personal injury victims in car accident/semi-truck and serious personal injury cases.

We continue to secure favorable outcomes in over 90 percent of our cases, and we are prepared to fight to do the same for you.

Click here to contact us today or call us at (888) 782-9090 for your free case evaluation and see how we can help.

We are local attorneys with offices throughout south central Kentucky in Bowling Green, Glasgow, Greenville and Russellville and are ready to meet or travel to our injured clients.  The Law Firm of Flora Templeton Stuart is also licensed in Kentucky and Tennessee.

FAQ

What If I Can’t Afford an Attorney?

We believe that personal injury victims should not be deprived of adequate legal representation simply due to cost concerns.  For this reason, when you hire our team, you will not incur any fees or costs unless and until we win your case and you receive compensation for your injuries.

How Long Will My Car/Semi-Truck Litigation Last?

Unfortunately, it is difficult to say with any certainty how long a trial process might last.  From the time you file your lawsuit to the time you receive your verdict, it very well could take months or even years, especially with appeals, but we will be with you every step of the way.

How Do I Know Whether to Settle or Go to Court?

The decision of whether to settle depends on a variety of factors.  More often than not, a car, semi-truck or personal injury accident case will settle before trial, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should settle.  If you are unsure whether you should settle or proceed with trial, contact our team today for your free case evaluation so that we can discuss the best option for you moving forward.