What Happens During a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If you were hurt in a car accident, bit by a dog, slipped and fell at the supermarket, were injured during surgery, or suffered a different personal injury, you can sue for compensation.
The key element needed to file a personal injury lawsuit against another person or entity is negligence.
It can be hard to prove negligence in many personal injury cases; however, working with an injury attorney can ensure you get the best possible outcome. Here’s what you can expect to happen during a personal injury lawsuit.
Initial Legal Consultation
When filing a personal injury lawsuit, it is always best to consult a lawyer. Most personal injury attorneys will offer a free initial consultation at no charge where you can discuss the details of your case. The advice they provide in this meeting is valuable as it will guide you on the best course of action on your road ahead.
This is when you can ask questions, such as whether you have a valid case. If there is a chance of getting compensation for your damages from the negligent party, you will likely proceed with the next steps of the lawsuit.
Another reason a personal injury attorney is so important is that they will abide by the statute of limitations to file your lawsuit on time. Once the complaint is filed with the court, you will become the plaintiff in the case while the other party becomes the defendant. The complaint will state the nature of your accident, the resulting injuries, and the damages you seek.
The defendant must respond to the complaint, and once they do, both sides enter the discovery process, where evidence is formally exchanged. Your lawyer will submit questions to the defendant and may even request documents. Depositions may also occur during this time. Your lawyer may also hire experts to help build your case, such as an accident reconstruction or medical expert.
Pretrial Motions and Hearings
Next, your attorney may use a pretrial motion to urge the other side to provide evidence. They may also file motions to resolve the case before heading to trial. The defendant’s attorney might file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on a lack of evidence. Your attorney may then file a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the facts are undisputed and the judge should grant relief immediately.
Before the case goes to trial, each side will try to settle. If the defendant agrees to the requested compensation, then the plaintiff agrees to release them from liability. This process may go back and forth many times, and it may require a mediator to help reach an agreement.
While most personal injury lawsuits will end with a settlement, some will still head to trial. The jury will decide if the defendant is liable, and if so, they will then determine the amount of damages the plaintiff should receive.
Whether you settle with the defendant or the court enters a judgment in your favor, your attorney will then collect and distribute the funds. You will then receive your compensation minus the fees for your lawyer.
Even if you win at trial, the defendant may not be happy with the outcome and file a post-trial motion. This would either challenge the judgment or reduce the amount of damages awarded by the jury.
Another option is pursuing appeals, where a higher court is asked to determine whether or not any legal errors were made. Should this happen, your attorney and the defendant’s attorney may continue settlement negotiations to close the case in a timely fashion.
Keep in mind that you have a greater chance of settling your personal injury lawsuit outside the courtroom. Working with an experienced attorney can help you recover fair compensation for your injuries and damages.