You might want to know what typically happens and the amount of time that takes place in a personal injury case if you believe you have a claim worth pursuing. This article will describe the standard procedures and sequence of a personal injury claim and lawsuit.
Obtain Professional Healthcare Services
Your first step after getting injured in an accident is to see a professional healthcare provider. Go to the hospital or see a doctor if there is any personal injury. A visit to the doctor is not only the best choice for your health, seeking professional care immediately following the accident will convince an insurance adjuster and jury that your injury was significant.
Select an Attorney
Selecting an attorney is the next step to follow up on any important claim. After the injury occurs you should decide on a lawyer as soon as possible. You may actually settle a small personal injury claim on your own, even though a lawyer is usually beneficial in smaller claims as well, but you will certainly need a lawyer for any personal injury lawsuit which involves major damages or loss.
How do you choose between a small claim that doesn’t necessarily require a lawyer and an important claim that involves hiring an attorney? Generally, if your employment is affected for than a couple of days, if you fracture a bone, or if your medical expenses exceed a couple thousand dollars, you should consider legal representation.
You definitely should discuss your damages with more than one lawyer. You may even choose to set up appointments to meet them in person. After selecting an attorney and signing a payment contract, your lawyer will get to work on your claim.
Case Examination and Medical Record Evaluation
Initially your lawyer will set up an in-depth interview with you to investigate how the accident occurred, your history, and your medical condition and medical services. The lawyer wants to identify everything that you know about your accident, injury and treatment. Lawyers don’t want any surprises, so be certain your answers are detailed and thorough.
The lawyer will then gather the entire medical history and expenses pertaining to the injury and will most likely also obtain your medical records all medical care that you have ever had concerning any pertinent matters in the claim. This stage could take months.
The lawyer will examine all medical records once they arrive to see if there is a potential case in his or her opinion. Often times the lawyer may decide that there is no case and can communicate that unpleasant news to the client beforehand in the representation.
Lawyer Considers Settling or Makes a Demand
Many times smaller personal injury cases are settled before a court case is ever filed. If the attorney considers settling the case, they will make a demand to the other party’s lawyer or the their insurance company. If not, your lawyer will file proceedings. Generally, if your claim involves a case of permanent damages or loss, a competent lawyer will not settle before filing a lawsuit.
An effective lawyer will also hold back on a demand until the plaintiff has reached a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI occurs when the plaintiff’s medical treatment is discontinued and his or her health is restored as much as possible. The reason for this delay is that until the plaintiff has achieved MMI, the lawyer cannot identify a monetary value for the claim.
Until MMI is reached the lawyer should wait to file a court case. The jury might otherwise underestimate the value of the case if the plaintiff is not at MMI by the time the case reaches the trial stage.
It may take months to years for the plaintiff to get to MMI and a good lawyer will postpone further action if the plaintiff has the financial means to hold off. Understandably, if the plaintiff needs money, then the lawyer should file a lawsuit as quickly as possible.
A Claim is Filed
The clock begins ticking when a lawsuit is filed as to when a case goes to trial. The pretrial process of each state is different, but usually a personal injury case doesn’t go to trial for one to two years. Be aware that a lawsuit needs to be filed within a firm timeline that each state has determined by assigning a statute of limitations law.
The Discovery Phase
The discovery process is the phase in which each party examines their opposition’s legal claims and arguments. They send interrogatories, or questions, and document bids to each other, and take depositions of all of the witnesses involved in the case, usually beginning with the defendant and plaintiff. Depending on the court’s time limits and intricacies of the case this procedure may last from six months to a year.
Negotiation and Arbitration
As the discovery course winds down, lawyers will usually begin settlement discussions. Occasionally a case is settled by attorneys negotiating among themselves, but as an alternative, they will go to mediation. Mediation is a process in which both clients and both lawyers appear in front of a mediator in an attempt to settle the case.
many cases mediation is successful, otherwise, if it doesn’t work, a trial for the case is planned. A personal injury trial can last anywhere from a day to longer than a week. The time it takes may be longer since trials in many states arrange for only a half-day instead of an entire day. That schedule doubles the amount of time a trial takes, but also allows judges and lawyers to take care of other business throughout the day.
A key fact about trials is that just because a lawsuit is scheduled for trial it does not mean the trial will take place on that exact date. Trials are frequently rescheduled due to the judge’s schedule. If your trial is cancelled, you should not come to the conclusion that the lawyers are scheming against you or that something bad is taking place. Trials are commonly postponed, and for many harmless reasons.