The Personal Injury Litigation Process
The injury lawsuit process is confusing. Typically, many individuals never expect to be the victim of someone else’s negligence or intentional action.
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys approach the personal injury claims process with a comprehensive understanding of civil tort law to ensure our clients receive the compensation they deserve.
Are you the victim of an accident, medical malpractice, defective product, or neglect caused by someone else’s fault? Do you know what to expect in a typical personal injury case, or how long it will take to resolve?
Here is how the personal injury litigation process works.
The Personal Injury Claims Process
Nearly all personal injury cases go through the same process from the victim receiving medical care when necessary to resolve the claim through a negotiated settlement or jury award. The process includes:
- The victim suffers injuries through someone else’s negligence. Typically, the victim’s life is significantly altered by an unexpected accident, incident, or event, leaving them with extensive medical bills and health problems.
- The victim seeks medical attention. A qualified diagnostician or doctor identifies the health issues associated with the unexpected accident, incident, or event to provide medical treatment that maximizes the victim’s healing process.
- The injured party hires a personal injury lawyer. As quickly as possible, the victim contacts an experienced personal injury attorney and schedules a free consultation to discuss the case’s merits.
- The victim filed a personal injury claim. Filing a claim against an insurance company initiates the legal part of the personal injury claims process to obtain compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
- Documents, evidence, and discovery. The experienced attorney working on your personal injury claim will begin building a case that identifies all defendants and any third parties that might also be involved in your injuries sustained by someone else’s negligence.
- Negotiated settlement or trial. At some point, the defendants’ insurance companies will make a good faith offer during a negotiated settlement to stop the injury case moving forward in exchange for compensation. When both parties cannot agree to a negotiated settlement, the case will go to trial.
Many times, personal injury claims take many months to resolve due to the lengthy process. As a result, most personal injury attorneys will wait until their client reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI) level before negotiating a settlement or going to trial.
Maximum medical improvement means that the injured party has either ended their medical treatment or has maximized their physical recovery even if they are not entirely healed.
Call Your Personal Injury Lawyer
The personal injury lawsuit process begins with the first phone call to your lawyer. Preferably, this should be done as soon as possible after your accident. The minute that you form an attorney-client relationship after your free consultation, your personal injury attorney will begin to work with you to learn the facts of your case.
An express personal injury attorney will offer a case evaluation or a case review after reviewing your medical records, the police report, and any other documents and evidence required to determine if the case can reach a successful outcome.
They will also help assemble the evidence, including reviews of your medical records and conversations with people who can provide witness testimony. All of this aims to either present your personal injury claim to the insurance company or file your lawsuit in court.
How Your Personal Injury Claim Unfolds
In some cases, the insurance company will deny the claim or delay payment after receiving a demand letter from the victim or their attorney. Should that occur to you, your personal injury lawyer will draft a legal complaint and file it with the court before the state statute of limitations expires.
Once the complaint is transmitted to the court and served on the at-fault party, your personal injury lawsuit has begun. Each step of the discovery process will happen according to legal deadlines set by the court.
After your complaint is filed, the first thing that happens is that the defendant has the right to respond to your complaint in a written answer. In this document, the defendant will respond one-by-one to all the facts that you allege.
Unfortunately, more often than not, they are telling the court that they either deny your facts or cannot admit them.
Once the complaint and answer are filed, the defendant will usually file a motion to dismiss the case. The defendant will almost always try to convince the court that your case does not have any merit or that you have not followed one of the court’s rules.
They will try to use any one of several arguments to persuade the court to throw out your case. However, the good news for you as a plaintiff is that courts usually want the case to go further and will most often not grant the motion to dismiss the case.
The Discovery Phase of Your Personal Injury Claim
Assuming your case survives a motion to dismiss, the next part of the process is the discovery phase, which is the most lengthy. This part of your case can take up to a year and sometimes longer.
During discovery, both parties in the case exchange information that builds the factual record of the case.
Discovery likely begins with requests for information and documents. These are called interrogatories and requests for documents. For example, you can ask factual questions. You can also submit tailored document requests for things such as records and emails.
So long as you are requesting relevant documents that do not fall under several exceptions, the other party has to produce them. Usually, both parties to a case will end up in front of the judge many times during discovery because it is not a smooth process where both parties see things the same way.
The most intensive part of discovery involves deposing witnesses. At this stage, your lawyer can call parties to the case or witnesses to ask them questions under oath. Again, the point of discovery is to find out what each person knows.
The discovery phase helps build the record for trial, and witnesses cannot contradict their deposition answers when they testify in court later.
As a plaintiff in the case, you may find yourself being deposed too. The chances are that you will be asked questions in a deposition. Deposing witnesses can be a very grueling exercise since depositions can last up to seven hours.
Motions for Summary Judgment
After discovery, both sides will likely submit additional motions to the court to avoid a court hearing. These are called motions for summary judgment.
At this stage, you are trying to examine facts learned in discovery and use the information to persuade the judge that the law allows you relief based on undisputed facts. You can anticipate that the defendant will try to use the same strategy.
In the meantime, you will participate in settlement negotiations for the case with the defendant at multiple points during the process. Thus, while the litigation process will allow you to present evidence and all the details at trial, the chances are that your case will never reach the end of the trial process.
Statistics reveal that an overwhelming percentage of cases settle before the case goes to a personal injury trial.
Some cases even reach a settlement agreement during the trial or right before the jury decides the case. Thus, the negotiation process is always ongoing during the legal personal injury claims process.
The Personal Injury Trial
Sometimes, both sides cannot reach a settlement agreement to resolve a personal injury claim. When this occurs, the court will set a date for the hearing. The case will begin with jury selection before each party gives opening statements.
When that happens, each side will be given a certain amount of time to present their case to the court.
As the plaintiff, you will be able to call witnesses and present your evidence to the court. You will most likely be called to testify yourself and will be subject to cross-examination from the defendant’s attorney.
Each of your witnesses can expect the same questioning and cross-examination. After your personal injury attorney has provided evidence to prove your case, the defense gets a chance to prove their side of the story. Following that, each side will give closing arguments.
Once both sides have rested their case, the judge will issue a jury instruction (if there is a jury) before the jury begins deliberation.
Then, the judge or jury (depending on whether you asked for a bench trial or a jury trial) will issue their decision. They will use the standard whether you have proved your case by a preponderance of the evidence.
The jury weighs the evidence before deciding whether you have shown that it is more likely than not that the other party is liable.
Both sides wait to see how the jury decided the case. Should the jury return a verdict in your favor, the case is still not over if the opposing side decides to appeal the jury’s decision.
The defendant will often try to appeal a jury verdict, especially if there is a significant damages award.
Unfortunately, many substantial jury verdicts can be appealed to the appellate court seeking to overturn the jury’s decision. However, you have the right to appeal the reduction of your award in most cases.
Personal Injury Attorneys Can Simplify Your Claims Process
To learn more about how the personal injury litigation process works, contact the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC to schedule your free initial consultation. We are experienced attorneys and trial lawyers familiar with all aspects of personal injury law.
Contact our law firm at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or use the contact form today to schedule a free case evaluation. All sensitive or confidential information you share with our law firm remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
Our law firm accepts all personal injury cases through a contingency fee agreement, meaning that no upfront fees are paid until after the case has been resolved. So let us begin working on your case today to determine how much compensation you will receive through a fair settlement negotiation.