Most people don’t know what happens in a lawsuit. They may be worried about going to court. They may not know what is considered a personal injury case. They may even wonder if they’ll be treated fairly.
The truth is that most personal injury lawsuits don’t go to court. Even so, you should know what’s involved in a personal injury lawsuit process. That way, you won’t be so stressed, and you’ll be able to find a good lawyer to represent you. Here are 7 common steps in the timeline of a personal injury lawsuit.
Step 1: You Meet with a Personal Injury Attorney
A personal injury attorney is different from other lawyers because he specializes in helping injured people get the money they deserve. This is true whether people get injured due to medical malpractice, a car accident, or something else.
You should meet with a personal injury attorney to see if you have a valid claim for compensation. Most lawyers provide free consultations, so don’t pay just to talk to an attorney!
When you meet with the attorney, be sure to ask about his track record in handling your type of case. A good attorney will be willing to answer any questions you have. He will also ask you a lot of questions, because he needs to understand the true value of your case. Never trust a lawyer that promises you’ll receive a certain amount of money. A trustworthy lawyer may give you a ballpark figure of what other people have won, but won’t promise you a specific amount.
Step 2: You Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
You should understand how personal injury attorneys get paid. Most of them work on a “contingency basis,” which means they only get paid if you win your case. If you do win, then your attorney will receive a percentage of the settlement as compensation.
When you agree to hire a personal injury attorney, you’ll have to sign a contract that specifies your lawyer’s fee. Make sure you clearly understand the contract before signing on the dotted line.
Step 3: Your Attorney Investigates Your Case
Now your attorney has to do some legwork. He’ll investigate how badly you were injured, how badly your property was damaged, and how much money you had to pay out-of-pocket for hospital bills or other expenses. He’ll then directly reach out to the other party’s insurance company (or in some cases, your insurance company), and begin negotiating with them.
Step 4: You May Be Able to Settle Your Case Prior to a Lawsuit
In many cases, injured people are able to settle their case with the insurance company before a lawsuit is filed. If the insurance company offers to settle, then your attorney will tell you, and let you know his opinion on whether you should accept it or not. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
It’s important to note that once you settle, you won’t be able to sue the other party or his/her insurance company afterwards — even if you are still dealing with serious injuries as a result of the accident. In some cases, your attorney will send a pre-lawsuit settlement demand to the insurance company once you’ve reached “Maximum Medical Improvement,” or “MMI.” This is when you’ve either healed completely, or your medical providers have done all they can for you.
Step 5: Your Attorney Files a Lawsuit
If an acceptable settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will file a lawsuit in court. Then a judge will decide when the next steps need to take place. Once your attorney files a lawsuit, it could take anywhere from 6 to 18 months for your case to go to trial. The length of time often depends on the type of case. For example, car accident cases usually don’t take as long as medical malpractice suits.
Step 6: You May Go to Mediation
Before you go to court, you and your attorney may take part in mediation. This is when a neutral party acts like a referee between both sides, and tries to find a mutually acceptable solution. In mediation, you get to present your case to the mediator, and negotiate for your desired settlement price. Mediation is “non-binding,” which means you can either accept or reject the other side’s offer.
Step 7: Your Case Goes to Trial
If and when your case goes to trial, your attorney represents you to the judge or jury. The party who injured you (the defendant), or their attorney, gives their side of the story. In the end, the judge or jury decides two things:
Is the defendant responsible for your injuries?
If so, how much does he or she have to pay you?
Personal injury trials consist of many phases and may take several days to a week to finish. Even if you win your case, you may have to keep fighting for your rights after the trial concludes. For instance, the defendant may appeal the case, and you’ll have to go to court again. Fortunately, that doesn’t always happen.
The personal injury lawsuit process has a lot of different stages. It can get complicated, and even overwhelming at times. However, with a good lawyer at your side, you won’t have to worry so much. Reach out to us today to learn more.