Every personal injury case is different, and there isn’t just one way that a case should be handled. However, there are some steps within a personal injury lawsuit that is common to most cases. The following steps generally cover the progression of a personal injury lawsuit from beginning to end. While you cannot count on your case following these steps precisely, it will likely be somewhere close to what is described.
Step #1: Consulting a Personal Injury Attorney
When an accident has occurred, your first step is to discuss the specifics of your circumstances with a personal injury attorney. You will likely discuss:
Whether there was negligence on someone else’s part involved
Whether there is a defendant from whom to seek compensation
The severity and extent of injuries you suffered
Your medical expenses
Your legal options
Step #2: Investigating Your Case
The next step of your personal injury case is a thorough investigation of the claim. That includes your attorney reviewing all relevant information including police reports, photographs, witness statements, medical records and expenses, employment information (income and earning potential), and any other appropriate information. It’s during this step, that your attorney may consult with experts (medical, accident reconstruction, etc.) and obtain their professional opinions. If there is a relevant video that shows your accident, your attorney may likely secure it at this time. Your attorney will also consider the possible defenses of the other party, or parties, and determine liability.
Step #3: Demand for Settlement
During this step, your attorney will issue a demand for settlement to the defendant. It will outline your claim, including liability and damages you are seeking (injuries, lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and future medical expenses). The other side will review the demands, either accept the demand, reject it, or make a counteroffer. Negotiations will follow and either a settlement will be reached, or your case may have to proceed further.
Step #4: Filing Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
In the event that a settlement cannot be agreed upon, your attorney will file your personal injury lawsuit in the appropriate court.
Step #5: Discovery
Before trial, both sides are required to share evidence, or discovery, with the opposing counsel. That allows the plaintiff and the defendant and their attorneys to evaluate the other side’s case.
Step #6: Mediation
Also prior to trial, mediation may be ordered for your case. A mediator is appointed (often a former or current judge) to oversee mediation between to two sides to once again try to negotiate an acceptable agreement so the case doesn’t have to go to trial.
Step #7: The Trial
If your case still isn’t settled after mediation, the next step is the trial. In a trial, the decision-maker, sometimes a judge, sometimes a jury, will hear from both sides, be presented with the evidence and determine fault and award damages.
Find the Right Personal Injury Attorney for Your Case
While most personal injury cases are settled and never see the inside of a courtroom, it’s important that you find a personal injury attorney who is prepared to take your case to trial should it be necessary. The personal injury lawsuit process can be complex, requiring expert testimony and extensive legal and medical knowledge for you to have the best outcome for your case. Don’t try to handle it yourself, find the right attorney to advocate for you and your family.