For people unfamiliar with the personal injury lawsuit process, and that’s most of us, there are many complex steps to consider. Most lawsuits don’t go as far as the trial phase. But from filing a suit to reaching a settlement, the process can be daunting. However, working with a personal injury attorney to properly navigate a lawsuit can lead to payouts in the millions of dollars. We will now walk you through important legal stages to help you better understand the overall process.
Step by Step Process
- Meet with a Personal Injury Attorney: During an initial consultation, a lawyer will look at whether you were injured due to someone else’s carelessness or negligence, who the defendant is, and the extent/severity of your injuries related to the accident. It’s important to have your medical records, personal notes, and other documentation with you. At this point, your legal options will be discussed. In most cases, a personal injury lawyer will meet with you at no cost.
- You Decide on Whether to Hire the Attorney: Feel free to ask questions about the attorney’s experience and track record for cases like yours. Be aware of promises for specific dollar amounts. The attorney should explain how they get paid, which is usually a percentage of the funds you recover. When you agree to hire a legal professional, the contract you sign will specify the fee charged. You still have the opportunity to ask questions before signing the document.
- Attorney Investigates Case: A full investigation should proceed into your personal injury claim. It may factor in police reports, witness testimonies, photographs, your employment history and earning ability, and medical records and bills. In an auto accident case, your attorney may request to obtain data from your vehicle’s black box as well as any video surveillance of the area where the accident occurred. The lawyer will gather as much information on your injuries as they can.
- File Court Documents: The next step is to file and serve a complaint and submit other documentation required by the court. The complaint includes information on the accident, injuries it caused, and the legal reasons why the defendant is liable. It also states the types of damages being sought. The defendant will then have an opportunity to answer the complaint.
- Demand for Settlement: A demand letter may be included as part of the information outlining your case, along with liability and damages. The opposing party may review the letter and reject it, make a counteroffer, or accept your proposal. This letter is an opportunity to make an impression and should be of high quality, whether sent to an individual, business, or insurance company.
- Discovery Phase: Discovery is a formal process of exchanging evidence in which your lawyer sends the defendant and their attorney a set of questions. Various documents may be requested during this pre-trial phase. Both parties can agree to mediation or arbitration at any point, and appear in court to discuss progress with a judge. Depositions and expert witness testimonies may occur as well. Legal meetings and court appearances associated with discovery can occur over a period of months to a year or more.
- Pretrial Motions: If a settlement isn’t yet agreed upon, your personal injury lawyer will file a lawsuit in court; at this time, a judge will set deadlines for various phases of the process. It can take months, even years, to get to trial. The pretrial legal stages during this time include a complaint and answer phase, discovery phase, and a motions phase in which the defendant can file a motion to get the court to dismiss one or more claims or the case as a whole (a motion can be opposed in writing by your attorney).
- Mediation: An effort to avoid a trial, mediation is a form of dispute resolution in which a neutral mediator listens to both sides of the case. The mediator, who may be a current or former judge, can commence settlement negotiations and help reach an agreement during an informal proceeding. Either or both parties can decide to accept or reject an offer presented during mediation.
- Trial: A trial is a formal litigation process in which your attorney and the defendant’s legal team present their sides of the story to the judge or jury. Generally, a personal injury trial has six phases, including jury selection, opening statements, witness testimony/cross-examination, closing arguments, jury instruction, and jury deliberation up to the final verdict. It is up to the jury to evaluate the facts presented by both sides, determine fault, and sometimes decide on the types of damages to award.
- Judgment: Whether the verdict is in your favor or not, the defense can file an appeal. The decision may then be reconsidered in an appellate court. But even if there isn’t an appeal, distributing a monetary award can take time. Some of the money may be paid to an escrow account to companies that have a legal claim on it. Once that is complete, your personal injury attorney will write you a check.
Contact The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani
We hope our overview of the personal injury lawsuit process has been helpful. The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani has awarded multi-million-dollar settlements for personal injury cases such as auto accidents, defective products, and medical malpractice. Our law firm serves all of Southern California and takes on the insurance companies for you, fighting for the financial compensation you deserve. Call 888-952-2952 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer today!