If you've been injured in an auto accident or by falling on the ice at a local restaurant or store, you know how quickly you can go from being perfectly healthy to being in chronic pain. Few people relish filing a lawsuit. However, sometimes it's necessary to help you get the resources you need to pay the bills associated with your injury. It's much less scary when you know what to expect in such a case.
Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Although each case is unique, there are some basic steps that apply to most personal injury lawsuits.
1. You consult a lawyer
Most attorneys who specialize in personal injury cases will talk with you for free to determine if they feel that you have a case where a financial settlement can be reached. If they accept your case, many will also work on a contingency basis. That means that they won't charge you a fee unless/until they help you to get a settlement. Remember that in most cases you need to file your case within a specified period of time, so it's important not to wait to consult an attorney.
2. Your Lawyer will Contact the Other Party's Attorney or Insurance Company
The first thing most lawyers will do is to contact the other party involved in your situation and attempt to achieve a settlement without filing a lawsuit. Though this tactic often doesn't work, when it does, it saves the time, money and effort of a lawsuit and gets money for you much more quickly.
3. Your Lawyer Files a Lawsuit
If an agreement can't be reached with the initial contact, your lawyer will file a lawsuit on your behalf. After filing, the other party has a period of time--usually 30 to 45 days--in which to file an answer (give his or her side of the story.) After that deadline is met, the case will be assigned a judge, pre-trial meetings and a trial date will be set. Although you'll likely be assigned a trial date at this point, very few personal injury cases actually come to trial.
4. Your Lawyers Will Go Through the Discovery Process
This means that the other lawyer will want to see your proof that you've been injured by their client. You will also likely be required to provide access to your medical records and permission to talk with your medical team. This is also where notes you've taken throughout the ordeal on who and when you've spoken to key people will come in handy.
5. You Receive a Settlement or Your Case Goes to Trial
After the discovery process, your lawyer and the opposing lawyer will negotiate and likely agree on a settlement. If they are unable to come to an agreement, your lawyer will prepare you for trial.
No one looks forward to a lawsuit. However, when you've been injured as a result of another person's actions or negligence, it's important to get a settlement to cover your medical expenses as well as your living expenses as you continue to heal. For more information, contact Kevin Alexander Law.