What To Expect At Each Stage
Hopefully, you’ll never be involved in a lawsuit. But many times, when you’ve suffered injuries due to an accident that wasn’t your fault, the only way to get restitution for your damages is to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. Most personal injury claims settle out of court and do not require a trial before a jury, but it’s good to know that you’ve got competent legal representation if your case does go to trial.
This article will outline the basic stages of a personal injury lawsuit, and what you can expect as you go through these stages.
The Initial Meeting with Your Attorney
When you’ve suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligence, the first thing you should do is seek proper medical treatment. After you’ve had your injuries treated, it’s important to set up a consultation with an attorney experienced in personal injury law in your jurisdiction, such as the attorneys at Marathon Law. We will assess the strength of your case and can let you know whether we believe you have a valid claim. Be sure to bring with you to the office any supporting documentation such as medical records, doctor’s reports, police reports, photographs you’ve taken at the accident site, and notes regarding the accident and subsequent injuries.
Not only should your attorney have extensive personal injury experience and knowledge, but they should also fit well with your personality. It is important to ask questions before you choose an attorney – your financial future may very well depend on it. Find out how much experience the attorney has dealing with cases similar to yours, and ask what they’re success rate is. Ask them to tell you the compensation they were able to secure for clients with cases that are close in nature to yours. Ask them what their policies are regarding communication with their clients, and what you can expect if you work with them.
The attorney will ask you many questions to get a solid understanding of your case and how they may be able to help you. They will not be able to give you an estimate on how much your case is worth, though, without extensive research, so be wary of any attorney who guarantees you a specific amount of money at that first meeting.
Also, ask how the attorney will be compensated. The vast majority of personal injury attorneys are paid on a contingency basis. That means that they get paid a percentage of the compensation they are able to recover for you. The percentage varies but is generally between 25% and 40%. The monies owed them are usually paid out at the end of the case once a settlement has been reached either outside of court or during a trial.
For example: If your attorney settles your case with the insurance company for $200,000, and you have signed a contract that states they will receive 30% as compensation for their legal representation, the attorney would receive $60,000, or $200,000×30%. After your medical bills are paid, you would then receive the remainder as compensation for your damages.
Make sure all of your questions are answered before you sign a contract with an attorney.
Once you have entered into a contract with an attorney, they will begin investigating your case to make sure they understand every aspect of what happened and the extent of the injuries you’ve suffered. They will research medical records, medical bills, pay stubs, police reports, and other evidence, such as photos taken at the scene and eyewitness accounts. They’ll contact the insurance company and deal directly with the insurance adjuster so that you don’t have to. They’ll make you aware of any significant developments in your case. All of this involvement on the part of your attorney will allow you to focus solely on getting the medical treatment you need to heal from your injuries so that you can get your normal life back again.
Settling Out of Court
Most personal injury claims will resolve before a lawsuit is ever filed. This happens when your attorney negotiates for a fair and justifiable amount of compensation directly with the insurance company representing the at-fault party. This type of resolution is called a settlement. Your attorney will request a specific amount of compensation for your damages and will support that request with facts surrounding your case such as how much time you had to take off work, the cost of your medical bills, any future costs that are involved in treatment of the injuries you’ve suffered, and the pain and suffering you had to go through due to the accident and injuries.
Filing a Lawsuit – Pretrial Phase
If your attorney is unable to reach an adequate settlement agreement with the insurance company, they will likely proceed to file a lawsuit in the court of competent jurisdiction. A judge will set deadlines for each phase of the process of the lawsuit, and concluding the entire lawsuit can take months or even years depending on how complex your case is.
Here is a breakdown of the pretrial phases:
Complaint and Answer Phase
The document that outlines your allegations of the types and extent of your injuries is called the Complaint. The Complaint is filed in the county where your injuries occurred, or in the county where the at-fault party resides. The Complaint will be delivered to, or served, to the at-fault party, and they must then Answer the Complaint within a set period of time.. The Answer is a document where the negligent party either admits to or denies the allegations outlined in the Complaint.
Each party in the lawsuit has a period of time in which to gather evidence, testimonies, documentation, and other information pertinent to the case. They may request this information from each other, and of other third parties such as eyewitnesses and medical experts. This is called written discovery. Oral discovery, or depositions, may also take place where witnesses, experts, and the parties to the lawsuit are each questioned by the attorneys.
The negligent party, or defendant, may file a motion to ask the Court to take an action on their behalf. They may ask the court to dismiss one (or more) of your claims, or ask them to dismiss the entire case. If this happens, your attorney will have to file a written response to oppose the motion within a certain period of time. This may result in a hearing so that the court may hear both sides of the argument, and come to a decision.
At trial, your attorney will present your side to the judge or jury, and the attorney for the defendant will do the same. After each side has had a chance to present their argument and evidence, the judge or jury will make a decision on whether the defendant was liable for the accident and subsequent injuries, and if they are, the amount of compensation they will have to pay you for your damages.
There are usually six different phases of a personal injury courtroom trial:
- Jury selection;
- Opening statements;
- Witness testimonies and cross-examination;
- Closing arguments;
- Jury instruction; and
- Jury deliberation and reading of the verdict.
After the Trial
If you win your trial, the defense has the right to appeal the case. If this happens, a higher court will reconsider the verdict. Even if no appeal occurs, it can take a considerable length of time to distribute the monies awarded as compensation. Your attorney will pay any companies that have a legal claim to some of the funds, such as your own insurance company, if you utilized your personal insurance to pay for some of the treatments for your injuries. Your attorney will also deduct their fee from the compensation. You will then be issued a check for the remainder, and that is yours to keep as compensation for your damages. At this point, your case has concluded.
If you’ve suffered injuries due to an accident that wasn’t your fault, and have questions about the process of filing a personal injury case, we at Marathon Law encourage you to contact us to set up a free consultation. We can be reached by phone at 303-704-1222 or via our online contact page.