A personal injury lawsuit is a claim filed after injury and loss through an accident caused by a negligent driver. At the core of every legitimate personal injury claim is an injury of some degree, which has caused suffering and loss to the plaintiff. Without proof of the plaintiff’s injuries and losses accrued from the accident, it is next to impossible to build a case.
Some personal injury claims go past the maximum for the local small claims court (often between $5,000 and $10,000 in most states). Claims that surpass the state limit necessitate the help of an attorney. Depending on the evidence available, the attorney may be obligated to perform an exploratory investigation or accept a fair settlement agreement.
Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
1. Hiring an Attorney
The first step after getting into an accident is often hiring an attorney to guide you through the personal injury claim. The role of your attorney is to establish enough cause for the fee they are negotiating or take the case forward to a local or federal court. If the attorney’s investigation leads them to the conclusion that you have a viable cause, then they will propose a fee that the defendant would be willing to pay and is enough to recover all your losses after the accident.
You may see your doctor before hiring an attorney, particularly if your injuries are severe. You may not be in the right mindset to consent to settlement offers by the defendant’s attorney. Nevertheless, your doctor will have the final say on when you will be in the ideal condition to make a deal.
2. Negotiating Settlement
After the opposing attorneys establish that the case is legitimate, your attorney will negotiate a favorable settlement for your injuries and suffering. Depending on the settlement in question, you may decide to negotiate the settlement with or without an attorney. While the help of an attorney is key to getting a fair settlement deal, minor injuries, such as bruises and cuts are often settled individually.
3. Filing a Complaint
Your settlement negotiation with the plaintiff’s attorney may end in disagreement. If you have already established that the case is legitimate, but cannot agree on a fee, then your attorney will likely file a personal injury complaint in the appropriate civil court. As explained earlier, the cost of medication, transportation to medical centers, pain, and life degradation, among other factors determine the amount of compensation demanded by the plaintiff.
The complaint should be served to the defendant within a month or more after filing. The official document should be served to the defendant in a way that the court can verify. Served along with the complaint, are service papers, which tell the defendant when and in which court they should appear to answer the allegations.
During the pre-trial phase of a personal injury claim, both attorneys will present each other with evidence and witness information. Also referred to as the “discovery” phase, its early stages involve appearing before a judge or jury to update them on the progress of the case.
Depositions are scheduled as the pre-trial phase rolls on, which facilitates question-and-answer sessions for opposing parties and witnesses under oath. The pre-trial phase could last months or even more than a year, depending on how often trial dates are pushed back.
As the trial phase approaches, both sides ramp up their efforts to prove their case, often engaging in mandatory settlement conferences to select a jury and determine which evidence is to be presented in court.
5. The Trial
The trial phase of your personal injury lawsuit often lasts several days. During the trial, a judge or jury will be responsible for determining whether or not the defendant was at fault for the accident in question or not. If they are found to be liable for the accident and subsequent injuries and suffering, the defendant or their insurance company is expected to pay the plaintiff in damages.
Both parties are allowed to file an appeal case, which can last anywhere between a few months and several years. After exhausting the appeal process, a defendant who has been found guilty will be expected to compensate the plaintiff using the court ruling during the trial or after the appeal.
Get the Right Attorney for the Job
Have you been a victim of a reckless or negligent driver? It is within your rights to file a claim for the injuries and suffering they have caused you. If you are already thinking of filing a personal injury claim, it might be time to find and discuss your situation with a competent attorney. Lean towards experienced personal injury attorneys that can help you determine early on if the defendant was at fault or not, and guide you to winning a favorable settlement or ruling in your case. Get in contact with us today and take the right stance against negligent and reckless drivers.