So you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another party, and you’ve decided to file a personal injury claim.
Good work! You have taken action and made the first step towards receiving justice. You’re a responsible, hardworking individual and you aren’t backing down from those who must answer for your losses. You’re ready to armor-up! It’s now time to put your trust into the hands of the right attorney to fight for you.
This guide will walk you through the process of a personal injury lawsuit, including how to choose the right attorney, types of personal injury cases, frequently asked questions, a timeline of the process, and a checklist to help prepare you for the journey ahead.
Types of Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury law, also known as tort law, is designed to protect you, the plaintiff, if you or your property sustains injury or damage because of another individual’s or agency’s actions or failure to act. In a successful personal injury lawsuit, the defendant who caused the injury compensates the plaintiff. While automobile accidents make up the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits, the basis of a claim can range anywhere from a simple slip or fall to a multi-victim refinery explosion.
The following is a list of typical cases that can lead to: loss of income, property damage, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and costly medical treatment.
- Wrongful Death
- Truck Accidents
- Pharmaceutical Injuries
- Toxic Exposure
- Oilfield Accidents
- Workplace Accidents
FAQs: Litigation Process
First thing’s first: your case may take awhile to resolve. While small cases can often be resolved quickly, even medium-sized cases can take several years to resolve from the date of your injury to the day you receive compensation for your losses. From start to finish, your attorney will champion your case until the last gavel falls–just remember, he or she will have no control over how long the proceedings will last.
Civil litigation can be a frustrating and confusing process. Pleadings, motions, hearings, interrogatories, discovery, document requests, continuances, adjournments, negotiations, deadlines–the journey from your attorney’s office to the last gavel is an unfamiliar one to most people. Understandably, you have some serious questions.
Knowing how a statute of limitations works is imperative, as its rules and procedures are complex and the consequences for failing to follow them can be harsh. You must act quickly. Additionally, court rulings can determine the way the statutes apply–and even make them unenforceable. The number of years you have to file a personal injury claim varies from state to state and can range between one year to six years. You can view a chart of all 50 states with their respective number of years here.
Once a lawsuit is filed, you become the plaintiff in the case and the person or entity responsible for your injuries becomes the defendant. Attorneys for each side typically begin gathering facts through exchange of documents, interrogatories (written questions), or depositions (questions that are asked in person and answered under oath). This process is called discovery. After discovery, many cases get settled before trial. Only a small percentage of personal injury actions ever go to trial.
You may be wondering if there is any other basis for personal injury other than negligence. The answer: yes. Strict liability refers to the culpability of designers and manufacturers for injuries resulting in defective products. In this case, the victim does not have to establish negligence–rather, they will need to show that the product was designed or manufactured in a way that made it unreasonably dangerous when used as intended. Intentional wrongs, while rare, refer to cases in which an individual or entity purposefully causes bodily injury to you.
If a personal injury lawsuit is won by the plaintiff, a judge or jury will award them what the court refers to as damages. In other words: money. The amount awarded can include compensation for expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, future wage losses, physical pain and suffering, or disability that resulted from the injury.
This is understandably a concern that most personal injury plaintiffs will want to address. It is important to understand the difference between civil cases and criminal cases. Civil cases, such as personal injury lawsuits, do not involve jail sentences or stiff fines for the defendant. These penalties only apply to criminal cases.
This is where you must practice thoughtful consideration towards the outcome of your lawsuit. Settling a case means that you agree to accept money in return for dropping your action against the person who injured you. This will absolve the defendant of any further liability. Your attorney will provide a realistic assessment of whether a lawsuit based on your claim will be successful–after which, the decision to accept a settlement offer is entirely yours.
Choosing Your Personal Injury Attorney
Choosing the right attorney to represent your personal injury claim is essential to securing not only the justice you deserve, but financial compensation for your losses. It’s important to put your trust into a legal representative with experience in representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases. Learn More.
The better prepared you are for your personal injury lawsuit, the more likely you are to receive maximum compensation as quickly as possible. Before the initial meeting with your personal injury lawyer, it’s important to gather all information applicable to your claim in order for him or her to fully investigate your case.
- Name and address of ambulance service
- Name and address of the emergency room where you were initially taken
- Dates you were admitted to the emergency room and the hospital
- Names and business addresses of all doctors who have examined you
- Names and addresses of chiropractors you have consulted
- Names of all people who were involved in the accident
- Names and addresses of witnesses to the accident
- Dates you missed work because of the accident
- Name and telephone number of each insurance adjustor you have talked to
- List of people you have talked to about the accident or your injuries
- Accident report
- Copies of any written statements
- Your automobile insurance policy if you were injured in a car accident along with the “declarations” page or “coverage certificate” that sets forth what kinds of coverage you have purchased and what the policy limits are
- Your homeowner’s or renter’s policy, along with the declarations page or coverage certificate
- Medical or disability insurance policy or coverage certificate
- Other policies, including major medical, hospitalization, veterans insurance
- All correspondence you have received from any insurer about the accident or your injuries
- Medical bills
- Receipts for things you have had to buy because of your injury
- Receipts for things you have had to fix because of the accident
Timeline of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The litigation process of a personal injury claim is a lengthy and complex one, and most people do not have experience with such legal proceedings. Understandably, you and your family are anxious to pursue the justice you deserve. While the majority of personal injury claims end in a settlement before it can go to trial, it is important to familiarize yourself with what to expect–from your first meeting with an attorney to the conclusion of a trial. Learn More.
While your case may be over at this point, even if the jury ruled in your favor, the defense could appeal the case and ask a higher court to reconsider the verdict. Before you receive compensation, your attorney must first pay any agencies that have legal claim to some of the damages awarded. After that, you will receive a check and the money is yours to keep.
Congratulations! You have reached the end of your journey and your personal injury lawsuit is now over. You’ve navigated a complex litigation process, after many twists and turns, under the guidance of a trustworthy attorney whose expert decision-making skills have delivered you the justice you deserve. You had one opportunity, acted quickly, prepared yourself, remained focused, and battled through it.