Have you or someone you loved been seriously injured due to someone else’s negligence? If so, you may be thinking about filing a personal injury claim.
Personal injury cases will not follow the same path, as no two accidents are the same. However, there are some standard steps that most personal injury cases take.
This guide will help you understand the personal injury lawsuit process and make a difficult time a little less stressful for you.
What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury case is a civil dispute that allows an injured person (the “plaintiff”) to sue another person (the “defendant”) for compensation due to damages received. Damages may include economic and non-economic damages; this type of action is called a tort action.
There are two criteria involved in a personal injury lawsuit: liability and damages. You will need to prove that the defendant was liable for the damages you received, along with the nature and extent of your loss.
What Are Some Examples of Personal Injury Claims?
Automobile accidents are the most common type of personal injury lawsuit, but there are other kinds of personal injuries, including:
- Motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse
- Construction accidents
- Slip and falls
- Dog bites
And so on. Personal injury claims also cover wrongful death.
What Are Some Types of Compensation?
You may seek compensation for lost income, future income, medical bills, and other economic and non-economic damages, such as physical pain and suffering as well as emotional pain and suffering. If you win, a judge or jury awards you money, known as damages, for your injuries.
How Long Does the Process Take?
Every case is unique and depends on many things. That said, the entire process, which begins with filing your claim in court to receiving your settlement, may take anywhere from one to ten years. However, on average, cases generally take one to two years to settle or try your case.
Is There a Time Limit on Filing?
Yes. A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time you have to file a claim from the date of the incident for which you are seeking compensation.
This length of time the statute allows for you to bring legal action against your wrong-doer can vary from one jurisdiction to another and the nature of the offense so it is best to speak with an experienced trial lawyer that can tell you which statute applies.
Failing to file your claim in time can be a disaster, so you should not wait to talk to the right lawyer.
Step-by-Step Guide to the Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
1. Get Medical Care for Your Injury.
Even if you’re not sure you need medical treatment at first, it’s better to get examined by a medical professional because something may show up later that was caused by the accident. Be sure to keep all records relating to the accident, medical and non-medical.
2. Find a Personal Injury Lawyer.
You’ll want a personal injury lawyer with a proven track record who can guide you through each step and advocate effectively on your behalf. You’ll need to know if you have a good case or how to make it better, and finding a qualified, experienced lawyer who specializes in personal injury law can be critical to your success.
These are some things your personal injury lawyer will likely ask you to determine if he or she thinks you have a case. Before your personal injury lawyer can accurately evaluate your case, they’ll need to know the facts, so he or she will ask you questions regarding your accident. Your lawyer may also ask you for police reports, medical records, work attendance records, and so on.
Your lawyer may also want to consult with accident reconstruction or medical experts, who can provide reports and, if your case goes to trial, may testify on your behalf.
After reviewing all the facts, if he or she thinks you have a case, your lawyer will discuss your legal options with you. If you decide to pursue the case, the first step is to file the court papers.
3. File Court Papers.
If your attorney thinks you have a case, he will prepare legal documents, with you as the plaintiff, to file in court that presents your case against the defendant. These are called pleadings. The type of legal papers varies, depending on the context of your case. For example, a complaint outlines the plaintiff’s case against the defendant, and a summons gives notice to the defendant of the complaint filed against them. The defendant has 20 days after being served with the summons to file an answer, however, the court is not involved.
4. Investigate Claims.
Discovery is the time for each party to investigate the other’s claims and examine the facts. Your lawyer will send a list of questions, known as interrogatories, to the defendant. Your lawyer may also submit a request for documents, and both sides may take sworn statements, called depositions.
5. Attempt to Resolve the Case Pre-Trial.
Either party may request motions in an attempt to resolve the case before the trial begins. For example, the parties may request a motion for:
Summary Judgment- A summary judgment is sought when the facts are not disputed and a trial is not necessary.
Motion to Dismiss- A motion to dismiss is a formal request for the court to dismiss the case.
Motion for Default Judgment- When the defendant fails to cooperate within the specified time, he or she becomes liable to you, the plaintiff, and the court will decide how much you will receive in damages.
6. Attempt to Negotiate a Settlement.
Most personal injury lawsuits are settled before they reach trial for some very good reasons. First, trials are time-consuming; they’re also costly, they can drag on, and they are emotionally draining.
As the plaintiff, you can choose to settle the case at any time during the proceedings, even if it has already gone to trial but before the jury reaches a verdict. Settlement means that you agree to accept the money that the defendant is offering in return for dropping your case against them. You will also need to sign a release agreeing to release them from any further liability.
Both parties can also participate in a mediation pre-trial meeting with a mediator in the hope of settling. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, a court date will be set and your case will go to trial.
7. The Trial Begins.
Both sides present their arguments in court before a judge and a jury. Evidence will be presented, and witnesses and experts may be called and questioned during the trial.
Once both sides have finished and closing arguments have been made, the jury will be given instructions to consider the case according to a set of legal standards. They will attempt to decide whether the defendant should be held accountable and, if so, how much compensation is appropriate. Once they agree, the verdict will be announced in court.
8. After Trial Motions and Appeals.
Even if you win your case, the defendant has the right to file an appeal with the Appellate Court if they disagree with the result of the decision. However, interest on the amount of compensation awarded to you accrues from the time of the entrance of a judgment.
9. Collect Your Settlement.
If the trial decision is in your favor and is not appealed, or if you reach a settlement, your lawyer will go through the process of collecting and distributing the funds, including the funds owed to you.
You need someone in your corner who has the experience, recognition and proven track record to fight on your behalf to get the full compensation you need and deserve for your injuries.
Ted Babbitt specializes in personal injury law and is located in West Palm Beach, Florida. He has been helping residents throughout Pam Beach County secure verdicts and settlements for over five decades.
Contact Ted today at 561-375-2841 for a free, confidential consultation.