If you are a victim of personal injury, you are entitled to financial compensation. To pursue this, you’ll need to file a personal injury lawsuit, and you’ll need a lawyer who can get the job done. In order to file, it’s important to understand the necessary personal injury lawsuit steps, as it’s a process for everyone.
Some cases are fairly straightforward, be it car accidents, slip-and-fall mishaps, or other general negligence liable incidents, it can vary by how much fault can be determined. The easier it is to determine who was liable for your injury, the faster, more straightforward your case will be and the higher your compensation. Let’s go over the steps in filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Step 1: Filing a Lawsuit
When it comes to actually filing personal injury lawsuits, you or your lawyer will have to draft a complaint. A complaint is a legal document that outlines the exact details of the case, such as the names of the parties involved, when the incident occurred, and how much is being demanded of the guilty party.
Once the complaint is prepared, you can deliver it to the municipal court clerk’s office. There are usually fees involved, but those can be accounted for in your winnings from the case. The clerk will then stamp the document with the filing date.
Step 2: Investigating the Accident
Generally, injury lawsuits must establish who was at fault in order to award compensation for damages. Assuming you were healthy enough to do so, you should have filed an accident report at the scene or with the emergency authorities who arrived at the scene. For instance, if it’s a car accident, this is the police or highway patrol would be your primary contact.
Your attorney will gather any and all accident reports, reconstruct the accident by interviewing with witnesses or experts who could retrace what happened, as well as gather information such as doctor’s statements or prior history related to the incident at hand.
Step 2: Negotiation and Settlement
When settling a lawsuit for injury, the opposing party or their insurer will begin to negotiate with your attorney outside of court to determine what your compensation will be and what the terms of the agreement will be. Usually, settlements will include clauses such as the plaintiff (the victim and their legal representative) cannot pursue a lawsuit of the particular individual or company again should another accident arise again.
If the parties can agree to terms, an agreement will be drafted and signed by each party, and it will cover in writing the compensation that’s awarded to the plaintiff. If a lawsuit personal injury settlement cannot be reached, the case can go to trial and be argued before a judge and jury. Your personal injury lawyer should be prepared to go to trial on your behalf if need be.
Step 3: Pre-trial Motions and “Discovery”
Generally, once it is confirmed a case is going to trial, rarely do the parties “jump right into it”. Rather, there are certain procedures, such as pre-trial motions and depositions that happen before the trial so that both sides can have a fair and just argument with no inconsistencies in the story. This involves cross-examinations and interviews between the opposing party, any eye-witnesses, and yourself.
Motions are essentially just requests, made by either party. Almost every request made pre-trial is for clarity reasons, clearing up any questions or confusion before presenting the evidence to a jury. Once it’s in the hands of the jury, there is no going back unless an appeal to a higher court is made.
Discovery refers to any ‘new’ or previously undisclosed evidence brought to the parties’ attention. Any information from the legal teams or a third party can be brought forward in the deposition in a personal case, request for admission, interrogatories, or (if need be) a subpoena.
Step 4: Personal Injury Trial
Trials can take up to several months. A jury will have to be selected and surveyed. You’ll be assigned a municipal court with the appointed court dates. The attorneys on both sides will prepare and make their opening statements. Then the attorneys will present their evidence and findings to the jury, and then finally make their closing arguments.
In court, you may be asked to testify on the stand. Loved ones or co-workers or people close to you may also testify in order to validate the severity of your injuries and how much they impacted your daily life, which would be a significant reason for an insurance company to compensate you.
Step 5: Appeals of a Personal Injury Case
Even after a verdict is reached in a personal injury case, it’s not the end of the road. Your attorney can still appeal the decision to a higher court of law if the jury comes to an unfavorable conclusion. If you still believe there’s enough evidence – or if new evidence has been brought to light – to prove your case, then it may be worth submitting an appeal.
Step 6: Mediation
Mediation in the legal sense is tendering an agreement in a way that’s suitable for both sides. A third party arbiter may be assigned to listen to both sides, and facilitate the discussion until a remedy is found. These discussions are kept confidential and are a commonly used legal ADR (alternative dispute resolution).
How Much Compensation Can I Receive in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The amount of compensation you receive depends on what damages you have and how much fault the opposing party shares. The more damages you’ve incurred and the more liable the at-fault party is found to be, the higher your compensation generally will be should you win a personal injury case. Your attorney will also ensure that the insurance companies come to a fair and reasonable decision.