Accidents happen all the time no matter how careful you are. The problem is sometimes another person’s negligence can cause you harm. When this happens you have a personal injury claim that can be made in most cases. Unfortunately, when these things do happen it can kickstart a process that is lengthy, complex, and sometimes expensive.
Filing a claim against an employer, for instance, means that you could be going up against a law apparatus that is made to win such cases as it can save a company a lot of money. It pays to have a good personal injury law firm like Lamber Goodnow to help you so you can actually win.
In this article, we will go over what the process looks like when you have to file a personal injury claim so that you know what to expect.
Consult with an attorney
When you have an injury caused by somebody else, the first step, after recovering from the injury, is to find a lawyer and go through a consultation. The lawyer will need to get a lot of information from you during the consultation. The primary goal is to establish if there was an injury, to begin with, so you’ll need proof that you were actually injured and that it caused your hardship.
Attorneys don’t take people’s word for it as they have to win the case to be able to make money. This means that you have to furnish proof of the injury before anything else happens. There also needs to be a threshold of how bad the injury is as it may fall under small claims if it is under $5,000 and many attorneys will pass on this type of case.
Once it’s established that you were indeed injured, you now have to convince the attorney that it was caused by somebody else. At this point, an attorney that is interested in your case will start a preliminary investigation. This usually involves finding out if your insurance is going to cover the injury and related expenses or if there needs to be a claim filed. The investigation may also involve determining if the other party has sufficient means to be able to pay out compensation and make the case viable.
A complaint is filed
After the consultation and the lawyer is satisfied that your case is viable and can go forward, a complaint will be filed against the defendant. This will go through the relevant civil court under whose jurisdiction the complaint is being made.
The complaint will outline in broad terms how the injury happened and how it was caused through the negligence or even malice of the defendant. There will also be a lot of languages that detail how you were injured and how it negatively impacted your life including the expenses and lost wages you may be experiencing.
Once the complaint has been filed, the lawyer has to then locate the defendant and serve the papers of the complaint to them. This can be a bit tricky if it isn’t your workplace or if the person who caused your injury is not established in a particular place.
The serving process has to be very clear and verified so that the defendant can’t claim to not have known about the complaint. There is a specific process in which papers are served so that it is clear that they understood and can’t make any denials that would hold up in court.
The discovery phase
This phase is essentially a pretrial. During this phase, both sides will have their attorneys request the evidence that is going to be presented so they can form their cases. They will ask for evidence as well as witness information which constitutes a “discover” phase.
This phase can take a long time depending on the case. There will be a lot of times when things get quiet while investigations turn up evidence which then has to be given to the other party’s attorneys. There could also be delays in setting up the court appearances that take place with the lawyers and judge during this phase.
Then the trial date has to be pushed back until everything is finally ironed out. Once discovery is finished and the trial date gets nearer, the defendant will pursue ways to have the case thrown out or for a quick settlement to be reached.
Trial phase or settlement
This is the final phase of the process in which it is now either going to go to trial with a judge presiding, or there will be an offer of a settlement. In most cases, there is a settlement agreement reached before things can go to a trial. This only happens when the injured party is satisfied with the compensation being offered, or on the advice of their attorney to settle.
A trial is best to avoid in certain situations. Companies are eager to not have to pay the court costs in addition to the possibility that the judge will award the plaintiff more money than they would have settled for. On the flip side, there are plaintiff attorneys that will advise to accept a settlement because their case is not as strong as it could be to get a bigger award by the judge.
There is also the possibility of waiting years to actually get the compensation awarded by a judge if it goes to trial. After the trial is over, the defendant can ask for an appeal which will then delay things even further. It can take more months or even years for it to make its way back to court with the possibility that the appeal is granted and the award reduced or even denied.
Your attorney has likely gone through this process many times and knows which cases are likely to go a certain direction. Their job is to advise you on the best way forward, whether that means taking the settlement or seeing it through a trial.