Every personal injury case entails a unique set of circumstances that affect the litigation. However, there are common landmarks for most personal injury cases that you can expect to encounter once you have decided to file a personal injury lawsuit.
At Jeff GOULD Law, we know that uncertainty surrounding your legal future can feel daunting and seem like an uphill battle – so, we’ve outlined 6 critical steps in a personal injury lawsuit so that you have the information you need to navigate the lawsuit successfully.
- Plaintiff is injured and hires an attorney:
The first step in any personal injury lawsuit is of course an injury of some kind. No personal injury case is sufficient without some sort of evidence proving the plaintiff’s injury took place, regardless of the extent of the plaintiff’s losses/damages or the defendant’s liability.
When an injury occurs, most plaintiffs will choose to speak with an attorney if their losses appear to be more than the small claims court limit. If it seems that the plaintiff may have a case, the attorney may agree to an investigation. If both the consultation and the investigation lead the attorney to believe the case is viable, the attorney-client relationship can and will be made official once the Contingency Fee Agreement is signed by both Client and Attorney. At Jeff GOULD Law, initial consultations are FREE, and if no compensation is recovered during the suit, no fees are owed. NO Recovery / NO Fee.
- A complaint is filed and served on the defendant:
After establishing that the personal injury lawsuit is legitimate, the plaintiff’s attorney will file a personal injury complaint with the proper civil courts. This complaint serves as the first official document in the personal injury case and broadly defines what the plaintiff is alleging. After the complaint is filed, it is served to the defendant along with service papers detailing when the defendant must appear in court.
- Defendant hires an attorney:
If insurance applies, the defendant must notify the insurance company as soon as they know about the personal injury lawsuit. The insurance company will pay for and appoint an attorney if the defendant hasn’t done so already. Defendant attorneys typically work hourly rather than under a contingency plan; therefore, they are paid regardless of whether or not a personal injury case is “won.”
The defendant of any personal injury lawsuit will likely have a month or more to find an attorney before their court date. If the defendant has ample assets and insurance, finding an attorney willing to take on the case shouldn’t prove too difficult.
- Pretrial and discovery:
In the pre-trial process of any personal injury lawsuit, evidence and witness statements are provided by both sides in the phase of discovery. In the early stages of the personal injury lawsuits, both sides will also appear in court to agree or disagree to mediation or arbitration and to set a trial date. As discovery continues, both sides will schedule depositions for the opposing party and witnesses.
The discovery process and court appearances can sometimes take months or years, and the trial date may be pushed back. As the personal injury lawsuit moves closer to trial, both parties will engage in mandatory settlement conferences, make motions to determine what evidence will be usable at trial, and if the matter goes to actual trial – a jury will be selected.
- Settlement before trial:
While many personal injury lawsuits go to trial, the majority of personal injury lawsuits are settled before trial. The parties can settle and end the personal injury case at any point in the processes above.
If a settlement is not reached, the trial will begin and typically last several days. The judge and jury will determine if the defendant is at fault for the accident and the resulting injuries to the plaintiff, and if so, how much they are required to pay out in damages. After the trial, each party can also file an appeal that can last several months to years. After all appeals have been exhausted, the defendant (and on rare occasions, the plaintiff if the jury finds against the plaintiff) will be required to pay any damages established at trial. The steps involved in a personal injury lawsuit can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but understanding what to expect can certainly make the process less daunting.
If you are considering taking a personal injury lawsuit to court, it’s likely time to discuss your circumstances and the best course of action with an experienced personal injury attorney. Jeff GOULD Law, the attorney in YOUR corner, will help you navigate the legal field and receive maximum compensation for your damages.
DISCLAIMER: The information on this blog/site is NOT, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. It is for general informational use only. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Further, this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.