The timeline of a personal injury lawsuit 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. Most personal injury claims are settled before they go to trial, but it’s still a good idea to know what to expect. This includes everything from your first meeting with an attorney to the end of the trial.
Meeting with a Personal Injury Attorney
After you receive medical treatment for your injury, meet with a personal injury attorney to find out if you have a valid claim. Most personal injury lawyers do not charge a consultation fee, so beware of those who do.
It’s important that you bring any supporting documents for your case, including medical records, police reports, photos, and notes you’ve taken. Be prepared to answer any questions, as your attorney will need to fully understand your case.
Evaluating and Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
It’s important to carefully select the right attorney for your claim, as this can mean the difference between winning and losing your case. Be sure to look for the top 10 attorney qualities, listed above, that will prove valuable in your case. Keep in mind during your initial meeting, a good attorney will never make promises about how much money you can expect to receive.
Once you have made your decision, you will be asked to sign a client contract that specifies the exact attorney fee. Most personal injury attorneys are paid on a contingency basis, meaning there is no fee unless your case is successful.
Investigating Your Case
To understand your injuries, damages, and costs, your attorney will investigate your case. He or she will contact the insurance company directly and possibly the attorney representing the party responsible for your injuries.
Your attorney will keep you up-to-date on any negotiations and developments throughout the litigation process. At this point, you must prioritize your medical treatment and return to your normal routine.
Settling Your Case Prior To Filing A Lawsuit
Only five percent of personal injury claims, especially those involving automobile accidents, actually go to trial. The remaining 95% are settled before a lawsuit is filed. While your attorney negotiates with the insurance company representing the party responsible for your injuries, be prepared to receive an offer of settlement. If the offer is made, your attorney will advise on whether or not you should accept it.
Ultimately, you, and only you, have the power to decide if the settlement is acceptable. You don’t want to settle too early to get it over with, as you might not fully receive the compensation you deserve.
Filing Suit In Court
If an agreement cannot be reached on a settlement, your attorney will file a lawsuit in court, and a judge will set a deadline for each phase of the litigation proceedings. The length of your case will determine how long it will take to complete the process. Remember, your attorney has no control over the length of time it will take to resolve your case.?
Complaint and Answer. The Complaint is the first document filed in a personal injury lawsuit. It lists the injuries, what happened, who is being sued, why, and how much money is being asked for. After the Complaint is filed, the defendant has 30 days to answer your allegations.
Discovery. The discovery phase involves a collection and exchange of testimony, evidence, documents, and information between each party. This includes written documents, such as interrogatories and requests for documents, and oral depositions. Depositions involve the questioning of witnesses, experts, and each party by a lawyer.
Motions. The motion phase involves the submission of a written request or proposal to the court by the defense attorney. There are a variety of motions and they typically ask for a strategic ruling or direction that falls in favor of the defendant.
Going to Mediation.
Once the court proceedings begin, both parties may decide to work with a neutral third party if they are unable to resolve the dispute. This method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is called mediation. It is essentially a bargaining process by which a resolution between both parties is reached under a supervised exchange of information. Although sometimes statutes, rules, or court orders may require participation in this process, mediation is usually voluntary.
Going to Trial
If your lawsuit goes to trial, your lawyer will testify before the judge or jury, and the individual(s) responsible for your injuries will testify. Once the arguments are presented, the judge or jury will determine if the defendant is legally responsible, and, if so, the amount of damages the defendant must pay you.
A personal injury trial consists of six phases:
- Jury selection
- Opening statements
- Witness testimony and cross-examination
- Closing arguments
- Jury instruction
- Jury deliberation and verdict
The defense could appeal the case and ask a higher court to reconsider the verdict, even if the jury ruled in your favor. Before you receive compensation, your attorney must first pay any agencies that have a 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. After a long and complicated legal battle, you finally have the outcome you wanted, thanks to your great lawyer. You had one opportunity, acted quickly, prepared yourself, remained focused, and battled through it.