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5 Ways A Counterclaim Will Or Won't Alter Your Accident Trial

Counterclaims are an important part of some accident lawsuits, but they aren't very well-known. Are you considering filing a counterclaim? Or is the defendant you are suing filing one? Either way, it's vital to understand how it does — and doesn't — change your trial. To help you reach the best outcome for your personal injury trial, here are some things that will affect the trial process. 

1. Counterclaims Will Extend the Trial

A counterclaim creates a combined trial in which both parties serve as plaintiffs and defendants. And while much of the counterclaim and the original claim will take place in one process, the person making the counterclaim will now be given an additional opportunity to present their case against the plaintiff. How long this takes depends on the complexity of the argument. 

2. Counterclaims Won't Create a Second Trial

The primary appeal of counterclaims is that you don't have to complete two trials. Instead, the trial will start with the plaintiff presenting their case. Then, the defendant presents their defense to the original claim, as well as their counterclaim argument. The plaintiff responds to new elements brought up during the defense's case. Finally, both sides make closing arguments and the jury decides on both claims. 

3. Counterclaims Will Motivate Some Settlements

A counterclaim can be a strong motivator for the plaintiff to agree to come to the table and negotiate a settlement. This works in your favor if you are being sued and want to get a recalcitrant plaintiff to negotiations or mediation. However, beware of defendants who file a counterclaim with the express purpose of trying to force your hand into a settlement. 

4. Counterclaims Won't Dramatically Raise Costs

Along with saving time and avoiding duplication of effort, combining both claim and counterclaim into one trial means the bulk of your legal fees are only paid once. While some additional costs will arise from the extra work to build your counterclaim argument, it's generally much less than taking on a new trial. 

5. Counterclaims Will Be More Work

Finally, be prepared to do some extra pre-trial work. Your attorneys need to build both a defensive and offensive case using the same facts. You may need to request additional discovery or get depositions from witnesses that are more pertinent to your claim than the original claim. 

Where to Learn More

Get help making decisions about whether to file a counterclaim, how to respond to one, or when to pursue mediation instead by meeting with an accident lawyer in your state, such as Todd East Attorney at Law.