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How does the appeals process work?

Being in a car accident can be stressful, and the pressure can mount when an individual suffers injuries as a result. Medical expenses, lost wages and physical and emotional pain and suffering can be overwhelming, leaving a car accident victim with financial uncertainty and, perhaps, concerns about his or her long-term health and well-being. Those who find themselves in this situation may be able to recover their losses via a personal injury lawsuit, provided that he or she successfully shows that his or her damages were caused by the defendant's negligence.

But what happens if a settlement is not reached, the matter goes to trial, and a judgment is made? Depending on the outcome, a victim may need to appeal the judgement or he or she may have his or her winning claim appealed. When this happens, an appellate court will look at the court record, including evidence submitted, testimony given and legal arguments made to see if the trial court's judgment was based on error. If it was, then the judgment will be overturned.

There are several differences between the trial level and the appeal process. For example, though an initial personal injury claim may be heard by a judge and jury, an appellate court has no jury and no testimony will be heard. Instead, a number of judges will assess the trial court's record, appellate briefs written by the parties' attorneys and, perhaps, oral argument to see if the initial judgment is based on error.

The appellate process can be critically important for car accident victims. It could mean retaining the amount of compensation that was awarded, or it could mean getting another shot at winning on one's claim. Either way, those who end up facing an appeal should think about discussing the matter with an attorney who can help them be as prepared and persuasive as possible.

Source: FindLaw, "Appealing a Court Decision or Judgement," accessed on Feb. 26, 2016

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