After suffering a personal injury, you’ll want to know what options are available. Below we’ll discuss an average timeline of a personal injury case, as well as provide some insight into why you should consider working with a personal injury attorney.
Personal Injury Case Timeline
It was just starting to rain when the car next to you swerved into you. It appears that the driver of that car was actually texting at the time of the accident, and wasn’t paying attention. You had to receive treatment for a broken arm. You’re considering filing a lawsuit to receive compensation for the treatment of your arm, but also for the time you’ve had to take off work to recover. You’re also facing some future loss of wage because of the broken arm and time needed to attend personal therapy to regain full motion in your arm. What now?
1. Get Medical Treatment
The first thing you should do if you are injured in an accident is immediately to seek medical treatment from either the hospital or a doctor. This is not only good for your health, but also for an insurance adjuster as well as if you decide to pursue legal action.
2. Find a Lawyer
For anything more than a minor claim that could essentially be figured out by the insurance companies, you’ll want to find a lawyer. You might even want to contact a lawyer for small claims, just in case.
Reasons to Work with a Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been involved in an automobile accident, you might be hesitant about getting an attorney involved. But even if you do not decide to press charges, you might consider just going over the aspects of your accident with an attorney. Should you decide that legal action is necessary, that personal injury attorney can help you build your case. They have the experience necessary to ensure you are able to prove your injuries so that you can collect the compensation you are owed.
3. A Lawyer’s Next Steps
Once you’ve decided to work with a lawyer, they will investigate the claims and review all the medical records.
First, they will interview you about how the accident happened. They’ll ask you questions about your medical condition and the medical treatment you received for your injuries. Try to answer as completely as you can.
Next, a lawyer will assemble all the medical records and bills relating to the injury. They will also want medical records for any treatment you have ever received that correlates to the injury. This process can often take months because of record release approvals.
When the medical records are all compiled, a lawyer will review them to determine if there is a possible case. A lawyer will only continue working if they believe there is a real case present.
4. Settlement and Negotiations
Often times smaller personal injury claims are settled before any lawsuit is filed. If your lawyer thinks the case can be settled, they will submit a demand package to the attorney representing the other person, or the insurance company the other person is working with. This demand package outlines your injury, all the medical treatment required for your injury, and will stand as a demand for payment to cover your medical bills in addition to compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, any future loss of earning capacity, and any other economic or non-economic losses you have sustained as a result of the accident.
If the demand package does not result in a favorable settlement, or the insurance company is not willing to pay you a fair sum of money, then your personal injury attorney will file a lawsuit to take your case to trial.
5. Lawsuit is Filed and Pretrial Begins
Pretrial procedures are different from state to state, they usually take one to two years to get to trial.
During the pretrial, you will enter into the discovery process during which each party investigates the adversary’s legal claims and defenses. During this time, there will be interrogations and document requests where both sides try to gather all the information for the case. They will take depositions of all of the relevant witnesses in the case. This usually begins with the plaintiff and defendant.
Once the discovery period ends, usually both lawyers try to reach a settlement. Sometimes this can be done just between the lawyers, but other times this requires mediation. During the mediation process, both clients and thir respective lawyers go before a mediator to try and settle the case.
If mediation is not successful, then the case is scheduled for a trial.
6. The Trial
Personal injury trials can last a day, a week, or even longer.
Your attorney will represent you during the case, which usually follows this timeline:
- Choosing a Jury
- Opening Statements
- Witness Testimony and Cross-Examination
- Closing Arguments
- Jury Instruction
- Jury Deliberation, and
A personal injury attorney will be able to explain each step so that you know what is expected of you.