Learn what the step by step process is for a personal injury case. Everything can happen so fast. For example, one day everything is normal, you feel great, it’s beautiful outside. And then, out of nowhere, someone runs a red light and hits your car at 45 MPH. You have now been personally injured in a car accident. An ambulance comes, takes you to the hospital, and you are treated for your injuries. Now you are trying to recover. What are the next steps for a personal injury lawsuit?
There are several steps for a personal injury lawsuit that a victim can expect and are outlined below so you can get an idea of what to expect in your case. Always consult with your attorney for each step of a personal injury lawsuit.
Medical treatment is the first and most important step to make sure you are getting properly treated for your injuries from the accident. If you are injured, you should see your doctor or go to the emergency room. This is important for your health, safety, and a determining factor on how serious your injuries are.
Consultation with a Personal Injury Attorney
In order to get a case started, you should always consult with a personal injury lawyer about your accident. Many attorneys will offer free consultation services to review your case, so there will be no charge.
During the consultation process, your attorney will want you to explain what happened in the accident. Any information, documentation, and witnesses that would be helpful for the case should be shared with your attorney.
The Lawyer will Investigate your Case/Claim
After the attorney receives all of the information, they will review it. This includes medical records, treatment, police report, witnesses and statements, video footage, the costs of the damages, etc. This will help the lawyer understand what happened in the accident and the kind of damages that occurred.
The lawyer will Demand a Settlement / Insurance Claim
Once you have peaked in your medical recovery, the lawyer will determine if the case can be settled. If so, then the lawyer will send a demand for settlement letter to the other attorney or insurance company. It’s important that you reach your peak in recovery to fully understand any long-lasting injuries and financial expenses that have accumulated from the injury.
If there is no settlement met or the negotiation stalls, then the next step would be the start of litigation with a complaint filed.
A Complaint is Filed (The Beginning of a Lawsuit)
The complaint is the beginning of a lawsuit for a personal injury case. A case will be filed by your attorney in the correct civil court and will have information on the plaintiff’s case against the defendant. Usually, the complaint will have the parties that are involved and all of the related facts for the legal claims. A summons will also be filed to let the defendant know they are being sued.
Defendant Responds (Answers)
A response is the next step from the defendant, since they were served the summons and complaint. This response is called the “Answer” from the defendant. The defendant will hire an attorney and will respond to the complaint.
The discovery begins so that both parties can look at all of the information involved with the personal injury case. Each party must request specific information they are looking for in the discovery process and needs to be requested by the attorney. Depositions will also be requested as part of the discovery process, and questions will be asked for the parties involved. The discovery phase will help your attorney gather evidence for the case.
During the discovery phase, depositions will most likely be given from both parties. A deposition is the process of giving an oral testimony that is sworn and out-of-court for a witness to give sworn evidence during a question and answer deposition meeting. The intent of a deposition is for both parties to have the opportunity to discover all of the facts from one another, or even a third party. This evidence can be used and is written into a transcript that may be used in court. Please consult with your attorney about the deposition process.
Mediation and Negotiation
After the discovery, mediation (negotiation) will take place to help possibly settle the case before it goes to trial. Mediation will most likely involve a third party called the “Mediator” and will help assist in both parties to reach an agreement. This is part of the alternative dispute process (ADR) and can comprise of mediation, arbitration, or dismissal of the lawsuit case. During mediation, the mediator will not force anyone to settle, but will help identify the strengths and weaknesses for each party in their case. Most cases will settle out of court from mediation, arbitration, or settlement and will never see a trial in the courtroom. It is best to have intervention in the dispute and try to resolve it in a settlement. If an agreement and settlement cannot be met, then the next step is the lawsuit case will go to trial.
A trial is a very long process and is a formal meeting in a law court for review and examination of the evidence in front of a judge and jury (in most cases) and will decide who is legally responsible for the personal injuries in the lawsuit case.
A full trial for a personal injury case will usually take the following steps to complete.
- A jury will be selected for the case
- Opening statements will be given for each party to outline the facts
- Evidence, witness testimony and cross-examining the witness with questioning by the lawyer
- Closing arguments and summations based on the evidence presented
- Instruction from the judge will be given to the jury about the laws that will help guide the deliberation. (Judge’s charge to the jury)
- Jury deliberation will then occur in a room to decide the verdict.
- A verdict is reached and will decide the plaintiff or the defendant as the prevailing party with possible damages included.
- Judgment will be made by the judge based on the jury’s verdict. The judge may also adjust the damages given by the jury.
There are more details and processes on how a trial works, so make sure you consult with your attorney on the next steps.
If the losing party does not like the result of the case in the trial, then they can appeal it. A very low percentage of cases get appealed, but can be done and is sent to an appellate court. The appellate court will review the case, each party’s brief and evidence on record, and the previous outcome of the case. If the appellate court finds any errors in the trial or legality parts, then the appellate court may reverse the judgment (verdict), and a new trial would be set.
Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
After reviewing the steps and what’s involved in a personal injury case, you should make sure you have the best legal representation available. A legal team with a personal injury trial lawyer that has the experience and is ready to handle your case every step of the way. This will ensure you have the best outcome possible for your personal injury case at every step of the way. For more information on how the court works, legal procedure, detailed information for the steps on a trial, then check out the American Bar Association’s section on How Courts Work.