10 Steps of a Personal Injury Case
1. The Accident –
This is where the unexpected happens, and someone gets hurt. Whether it happens during a drive or while walking around a dangerous property, someone finds themselves a victim of a severe injury. We recommend to all clients seek proper medical treatment as quickly as possible. Injuries can be more extensive than initially believed, so getting a proper examination is an important step. To learn more about what you should do after an accident download a free copy of “5 Things You Must Do After a Car Crash.”
2. Attorney Consultation-
After the accident has occurred injured parties often need an attorney to fight on their behalf to ensure the injured parties are fairly compensated. It is vital that they find the right attorney and law firm with the experience and availability to provide them with the representation they need. Talking to an attorney can help them know if there is compensation available and how they should pursue it. Follow this link to read about some of the right questions to ask an attorney.
3. Accident Investigation-
Once you have an attorney they will begin to investigate the details of the accident. The attorney will get the police reports, talk to witnesses, and review what medical treatments have been performed or are required.
When insurance companies begin to receive claims and information about an accident they will reach out to the parties involved and try to settle the case before the injured party consults with an attorney. This is to the advantage of the insurance companies because it enables them to take advantage of the general public’s lack of knowledge and familiarity with personal injury case values and negotiations. We recommend an injured party consult with a personal injury lawyer before accepting any bodily injury settlement offer from an insurance company.
In a typical case, once the injured party has completed all medical treatment for her injuries, the attorney will compile proof of all damages the party suffered, whether it be medical bills and records, lost wage documents, photos of property damage, etc. The attorney carefully reviews this documentation and sends it to the adverse insurance adjuster along with a persuasive demand letter, setting forth a demand for a certain monetary value that the injured party would accept in exchange for a promise not to sue the party who caused the injuries.
After the lawyer sends the demand package to the insurance company, the insurance adjuster responds with an initial offer and from there the attorney and the adjuster negotiate until an agreeable settlement value is reached. Most personal injury cases resolve at this stage. However, in some cases the insurance adjuster may not be willing to offer an amount that is acceptable to the injured party. When this happens a lawsuit is often filed and the case enters litigation.
If negotiations fail, the next step is to prepare and file a lawsuit in court against the party or parties who are responsible for causing the injury.
6. Initial Stages-
The initial documents that the attorney files to open the lawsuit are called the Summons and the Complaint. In most cases the law requires that the defendant be served in person with a copy of the filed Summons and Complaint within 60 days of the lawsuit being filed. After being served, the defendants then have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit and file a response with the court.
The next phase of litigation is discovery. This is the process by which the parties to a lawsuit find out information about the other side’s case. This information gathering may take several different forms. There are written questions that the parties send to the other side which are called interrogatories. There can be written requests to turn over certain documents. Such requests are called Requests for Production. There can also be Depositions, which are interviews of a witness under oath that are recorded by a court reporter.
7. Medical Examination-
At times the defendants will insist that an independent doctor of their choosing physically examine the Plaintiff. This is known as a defense medical examination. We advised that an attorney is present when this happens.
Once initial written discovery is completed, e.g., interrogatories, request for production, etc., there will often be depositions where one side’s attorney questions a party or witness from the other side. The witness or party that is being questioned will meet with the attorneys from both sides usually in an attorney’s office. A court reporter will be present to document what is said. The person being questioned swears an oath to tell the truth. Since this questioning is documented and the answers are sworn to be true, the responses can be used later on during the trial. If the injured party is going to be deposed, It is crucial that the injured party works with her attorney to prepare for this. This is an important time during litigation and attorneys often use it to pin down testimony of the opposing party and the other side’s expert witnesses.
Typically at the point when discovery has been completed, the parties and their attorneys often attend mediation in an effort to settle the case without the need of an expensive and time-consuming trial. At mediation, the parties present the facts of the case to a neutral third party who works with each side to try to help them reach an agreeable settlement.
If mediation and all other attempts at settlement are unsuccessful, there will be a trial where either a jury or judge will whether and how much the defendants must pay to compensate the plaintiff for her injuries. The length of the trial varies greatly depending on the type, severity, and complexity of the case.