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.
Meeting with a Personal Injury Attorney.
The first step after receiving medical treatment for your injury is to meet with an experienced personal injury attorney for a professional consultation as to whether 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 many questions, as your attorney will need to get a full understanding of your case.
Evaluating and Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney.
Selecting the right attorney for your claim can mean the difference between winning and losing your case, so it’s important to consider your legal representative carefully. 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 fully understand how you were injured and the extent of your injuries, damages, and costs, your attorney will conduct a full investigation into 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. This is where your armor will be put to the test, as the process can take several months to several years depending on the complexity of your case. Remember, your attorney has no control over the length of time it will take to resolve your case.?
Complaint and Answer. One of the first documents filed in any personal injury lawsuit, the Complaint is a document outlining your allegations regarding the injuries you’ve sustained, the facts surrounding them, the individual(s) you are suing, the legal basis of your claim, and the amount of damages you believe you are owed. After the Complaint is filed, the defendant has 30 days to answer to 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 a 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 be unwilling or unable to resolve a dispute–at which point they may decide to work with a neutral third party. 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
When your case goes to trial, your attorney will present his or her arguments to the judge or jury, then the individual(s) responsible for your injuries will put on their defense. 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
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.?