The Stages of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Personal Injury lawsuits are unique to each situation. Various factors will determine different outcomes, but most personal injury lawsuits follow a similar process. The simplest way to learn what your personal injury lawsuit might look like is to contact the Cox Law Firm and let their double-board certified personal injury attorney, Steve Pierret, determine the best path for you. In order to prepare yourself for your personal injury case, it can be beneficial to know the general stages of a personal injury lawsuit.
This is the basis of the lawsuit. Some type of an accident has occurred, which caused injuries or damages. The party filing the lawsuit seeks compensation for these damages and injuries. Compensation may include medical bills, loss of income, future medical care, property damage, and recovery for pain and suffering.
Hiring an Attorney
An attorney will assess the facts and help you determine what claims, if any, are valid and what is the right protocol for seeking justice. Hiring an attorney early on can often help you obtain your compensation quicker. An attorney will also help you stay organized and focused, and ensure that your case is timely filed and all deadlines are met. An experienced attorney can also guide you in how you can contribute to your personal injury case and seek adequate compensation for you.
Gathering Information/ Building Your Case
Once the lawsuit has been filed, both parties will try to find all information regarding the incident. Attorneys will comb over medical files, accident reports, and other documents that pertain to the accident and damages. Experts, such as a doctor or accident reconstructionist, may need to be hired to assist in proving your case. This time of gathering information is called the discovery stage of the personal injury lawsuit.
Negotiation, Mediation, & Settlement
A large number of personal injury cases are resolved without ever going to trial. Attorneys negotiate with each other to reach a beneficial settlement for their client and, thus, avoid the time, costs, and uncertainty of going to trial. Alternatively, parties will agree to mediation, a process in which an impartial third person helps the parties reach an agreement. Mediation is often used to resolve cases because it too can save time and money for both parties.
A trial is where the attorneys present evidence to a judge or jury to convince them who was at fault and why damages should be awarded. The attorneys will use the documents and evidence that were gathered during the discovery stage of the lawsuit and question witnesses who have sworn to tell the truth. Trials can vary in their length and each trial is unique based upon the particular evidence, witnesses, documents, judge, and jury involved.
Jury Verdict and the Possibility of an Appeal
After the trial is over, the jury discusses the evidence in private and decides who was at fault by voting. Sometimes the jury (or the judge if a jury is not used) will find that more than one party is at fault, and in that situation will determine the percentage of fault for each person involved. The jury will also determine the amount of damages.
The losing party is entitled to appeal. Grounds for appeal could include such things as: evidence was admitted that should not have been; evidence was kept out that should have been admitted; or the judge made an incorrect ruling. A transcript of trial will be prepared and the attorneys will use it to prepare their appeal briefs, which are filed with the appellate court. The appellate court may hold oral arguments before issuing their decision, which could result in having retry the case.
Payment of Damages
Most often, if the injured party wins at trial, he/she will be paid their damages from the losing party’s insurance company, whether it be auto insurance, property insurance, or malpractice insurance. If there is no insurance coverage, the winning attorney will have to use legal process, such as wage garnishments, to enforce the verdict and collect the damages for their client.