In the US, there are over 30 million cases of injury every year. The sad fact is that some of these cases are as a result of another person’s negligence or carelessness. In such cases, you’ll need to understand the personal injury lawsuit process if you want to sue the party at fault.
Keep in mind that every case is unique, but there are common elements that you’re likely to encounter. So, if you’re unfamiliar with what goes on in a typical case and how long it cases, this post is here to answer some of your nagging concerns.
Keep on reading to learn more!
1. Finding a Lawyer
After sustaining injuries from an incident, you’ll need to find a good lawyer to represent you. It’s always a good idea to have the lawyer inspect the scene of the incident. This is crucial in acquiring any relevant details and evidence.
You’ll also need to the lawyer to work together with your doctor to make it easier to access your medical records. In most cases, you’ll need an initial consultation, which most lawyers or firms will happily offer it freely.
The consultation offers you the opportunity to narrate your account of the incident and ask questions about the case. It also gives the lawyer the time to assess the viability of the case and advice you accordingly. They will only enter a fee agreement after determining that the case is viable.
Be sure to engage several lawyers before making your final decision.
2. Case Investigation
After your initial consultation, the lawyer will start investigations. This includes interviewing you and witnesses and reviewing your background and medical records. Lawyers will want to know everything about the accident, your injuries, and the treatments.
Then the lawyer will acquire your medical records and bills that relate to your injuries and accidents. They’ll also want medical records of conditions that occurred as a result of your injuries.
The information and records your attorney will find will help them determine the course of your case.
3. Filing Court Documents
Your lawyer will need to file a personal injury complaint, and this usually the first document of the case. In this case, they must ensure they serve the defendant the complaint and other related documents.
Basically, the party you’re suing will be listed as the defendant on the complaint. Your lawyer will physically deliver the complaint to the defendant to ensure they receive the documents. This helps to ensure that they don’t deny being served the documents.
The complaint will detail the nature of the incident and the injuries you sustained. It will also show the legal basis for holding the defendant accountable and the types of damages you’re pursuing.
4. The Discovery Process
At this point, the parties enter the discovery process, which basically involves exchanging evidence. Your lawyer sends a list of interrogations (questions) to the defendant. They may also request documents.
Both parties may take sworn statements or depositions of all the witnesses in the case. This process can last six months to a year depending on the court deadlines and the complexity of your case.
Your lawyer may also consult with medical experts and accident reconstruction experts to build a strong case and get any relevant reports.
5. Pre-Trial Litigation and Motions
Some cases can get resolved by Motion to Dismiss before they proceed to trial. This can happen due to several reasons like a procedural defect or voluntary withdrawal.
Also, this stage allows attorneys to request evidence from the other side. It also gives the parties the opportunity to know what evidence will be accepted at trial.
The defendant’s attorney may also file a motion to dismiss all or a part of the lawsuit due to lack of evidence. The plaintiff’s lawyer can also file summary judgment to show that the evidence is undisputed and the jury should act accordingly.
6. Making Demands and Negotiations
The truth is that personal injury cases are usually complicated. That’s one of the reasons up to 90 percent of the cases are generally resolved pre-trial.
So, at this stage, your lawyer will try to negotiate with the defendant if they think the case can be settled out of court. How the defendant’s team responds will determine how the case proceeds.
Keep in mind that your lawyer will only make demands after you have attained the maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is one of the reasons personal injury cases take longer. Basically, your doctor has to confirm that you have recovered well and, therefore, you no longer need medical treatment.
Demanding compensation before fully recovering means the defendant won’t be liable for any medical cases related to your injuries that might occur after they’ve paid the settlement. This means that even if you take months or years to reach MMI, a good lawyer will have to wait.
If the parties fail to reach an out-of-court agreement or settlement, then the case advances to trial.
During the trial, the jury is responsible for determining if the defendant is liable. Their verdict will depend on the evidence the plaintiff’s team will provide. If the evidence is convincing, then the jury will determine the number of damages.
The defendant will be expected to compensate the plaintiff for the identified damages.
After the trial, both parties can file an appeal, and this process can last from months to even years.
Personal Injury Lawsuit Process – Final Thoughts
Being involved in a work accident or car accident and pursuing compensation are different cases. However, the denominator is that they are both overwhelming.
If you want to get a satisfactory jury verdict, it helps to work with a lawyer who understands the personal injury lawsuit process. This is particularly important when you’re filing a claim against large companies with adequate resources to hire top lawyers.
Keep in mind that defendants can opt to settle the case at any stage in the process above. The case can be resolved quickly if both parties reach a mutual settlement agreement.
Seth Bader is an Auto accident, Workers Compensation and Personal Injury Attorney who practices in Atlanta, Rome, Savannah, Norcross, Carrollton, Georgia. He graduated from Florida State University College of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years. Seth Bader believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.