Anatomy of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Accidents and injuries can happen anywhere to anyone, on any day and are certainly never planned. While the circumstances that surround each incident will be unique, the way these events are resolved will usually follow one of a few different methods: no action, a settlement, or personal injury lawsuit. Deciding which path to take can be at times confusing, and even a bit frightening. Victims either do nothing, immediately accept what the insurance companies offer or hire an attorney to pursue adequate compensation. Contrary to what some might say, there is nothing wrong with pursuing fair compensation for your injuries. After all, the consequences of another’s actions may cost you far more physically, emotionally, and financially, and leaving you in worse shape than before the accident. All of which you would never have had to suffer had the accident never occurred. If you choose to enlist a lawyer to begin a personal injury lawsuit and fight for what you deserve, you will generally follow this basic outline.
Gather All Information
First, your attorney will meet with you or speak over the phone to obtain the information he or she will need in the case. This includes needed information about your accident, including any medical records or other bills and charges that you have accumulated because of the damage incurred. The specific papers requested will depend on exactly what type of injuries you have and how they were received, but usually you will need to provide your insurance information. Your attorney may also need to access accident or police reports.
Serve a Complaint
Once all needed information has been gathered, your lawyer can begin drafting a complaint and preparing to file the lawsuit. The complaint and a summons will be served on the liable party, whether that be a business, an insurance company or a specific person. Once received, the entity will have 30 days to file an answer with the court. If the opposing party believes that the complaint is not valid, a motion to dismiss can be submitted to the court. A summary judgment can also be made without a trial if the defendant does not dispute the facts of the case. If this does not happen or a motion to dismiss is denied by the court, you will progress to the discovery stage.
After an answer has been filed, discovery for the case can officially begin. There are three different parts to the discovery process.
1. Written Discovery
The first part of the written discovery period involves allowing the opposing side to ask questions about the case. These are called interrogatories and require your answer to the best of your knowledge. In some cases, admissions may be asked for as well.
2. Document Production
You will likely also be asked to provide certain documents that may be pertinent to the case. This can include any of the following:
- Reports of lost wages
- Medical history
- Testimonies from witnesses to the accident
- Testimonies from expert witnesses
- Computer files
You may also choose to provide witness testimonies that testify of the effect that the accident has had on your finances, health and well-being. This portion of the personal injury lawsuit may require your authorization for the release of information or approval for questioning. During this period, you and your attorney can also make discovery requests of the opposing side if needed.
3. Depositions Are Scheduled
Once each side feels they have adequate information to prepare their argument, a deposition will be scheduled. During a deposition, you and any chosen witnesses will be sworn in to tell the truth and then questioned, similarly to the way you would be during a trial. This gives the opposing side a better idea of how you will testify during the trial. A court reporter will be on hand to write down everything that you say. If there are any discrepancies between your testimony during the deposition and that given during the trial, the opposing side can use this evidence to contest the case.
Once all information has been gathered and both sides feel prepared in their arguments, the discovery period will close.
Most often the defendant, and their insurance company, will attempt to settle the case before it can go to trial. A settlement can be advantageous to both parties to save the cost of a lengthy trial, but also the risk of losing far more at trial; you the plaintiff may actually lose the case and get nothing, or the defendant may lose the case and the judgement may be far higher than what they anticipated. Only you and your attorney can decide which path to take.
Trial is Scheduled
As mentioned, in many cases, a settlement is reached before this point, but if an agreement cannot be made the lawsuit will continue. Once all preparatory work has been completed, the trial will be scheduled. After the jury has been selected, opening statements will be given. This gives your attorney a chance to present all the facts of the case and describe what happened and how it has affected you. The defendant’s team will then offer their rebutting arguments.
After this, witnesses will have the chance to give testimony and be cross-examined by the opposing side. Finally, closing arguments will be given and the jury will be instructed on the legal standards used to decide if the defendant is responsible for the harm incurred. After the jury deliberates, a verdict will be given and the judge will announce the decision in court. The amount you will be paid will also be determined by the court.
While taking a personal injury lawsuit to trial can take longer than a settlement, while there are no guarantees, the result may be worth the wait. You should consult with your attorney and consider all possible outcomes before deciding which course of action you take. Insurance companies will usually attempt to give you the lowest amount possible to quickly close the case, but it can be less compensation than you actually need or deserve. By hiring an attorney, you can make sure that all of your damages are covered in the complaint and that you work toward a resolution to try to get everything you deserve.
As you pursue your case, it can take months to reach a fair settlement, and possibly years if the case goes to trial. During that period, if you find yourself financially strapped, you can use your expected settlement award to obtain the financial help you need through what is called a legal funding. These transactions offer you a portion of your legal settlement before your case is resolved. To find out more about a legal funding, Signal can answer all of your questions by simply calling 1-800-635-1167.