Reasons to file a personal injury lawsuit will vary from case to case. Personal injury lawsuits generally are brought about due to the negligence of another individual. In addition, the causes of these injuries can vary widely: injuries caused by a defective product, such as a defective firearm or machine; abuse suffered by those in positions of authority; negligent drivers in car, motorcycle and truck accidents and negligent security or unsafe conditions are just a few of the many.
Every personal injury case is different. The time it will take to resolve your case will depend on the complexities of that case: who are the defendants, what is the nature of the claim, who is defending the claim, and in what court is your case pending. One can generally plan on 16 to 18 months between meeting with an attorney and a reasonable chance at a trial date. During that time an attorney will try to resolve the case, if the opportunity arises. Keep in mind it can take a couple of months to just investigate and evaluate a case. Once a case is filed, it will take approximately 12 to 14 months to have any reasonable chance to resolve it through settlement or trial.
If you suffer an injury and believe you may have a personal injury case the following steps briefly outline what to expect. If you would like more information on what it takes to prepare for a personal injury case, check out Timothy Monsees’s book, “Preparing for a Personal Injury Case, What you Need to Know”.
Step 1: Seek Medical Evaluation
This is not only vital for your overall health and safety but is also a vital step in successfully recovering proper compensation. Seeking medical help right away, documents any injuries suffered during the accident. Failure to seek medical attention may result in you having a difficult time proving, to insurance companies and other parties, the extent of the injuries you suffered during the accident.
Step 2: Consult with a Lawyer
Most experienced personal injury lawyers handle cases pursuant to a contingent fee. This usually includes a free initial consultation. The consultation provides an attorney the opportunity to learn more about your case, and you the opportunity to learn more about the attorney who may represent you in your claim. If an attorney is trying to charge you for an initial consultation or work to investigate your case, it may signal that the attorney is not truly experienced in personal injury claims or is not truly committed to moving forward with your claim to a final settlement or trial.
All legal claims have time limits called “Statues of Limitations” in which a lawsuit must be filed, or you lose your legal right to pursue a claim. Each state has different time periods that vary depending on the type of claim you are making. It is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure you do not lose your legal rights. An attorney will also be able to assess whether you have a viable personal injury case and determine what steps need to be taken next on your behalf. Other time limits may apply. It is important that you seek the counsel of an attorney as soon as possible after your injury.
Many injury claims result in dealing with insurance companies. Unfortunately, insurance companies only pay when they are forced to; therefore, it is important to have an attorney who can deal with the insurance companies on your behalf. Studies have proven that individuals represented by attorneys tend to recover more on their claim than individuals who attempt to resolve their own claims.
Step 3: Collect Relevant Data
In order to negotiate an injury claim successfully, all facts of the case must be collected. Information collected and analyzed will vary depending on the claim. A few of the common tasks undertaken to evaluate and prepare your case for pursuit are the following: collection of medical and billing records to prove injury, requesting of employment records to file for lost wages, accident scene investigation including photographs, videotapes, and measurements, interviewing eye witnesses to the accident as well as others who may have information relevant to the accident, and investigation of possible responsible parties and legal theories of recovery.
In short, to do you the greatest service, a lawyer must learn as much about the case as possible to make an informed demand of compensation.
Step 4: Settlement Negotiation
When personal injury cases occur, claims are typically filed against the at-fault party and/or their liability insurance company. A settlement demand is sent to the defendants requesting compensation for your injuries. A great deal of time goes into the creation of a settlement demand. The case must be fully investigated, researched, and documented before the demand can be sent. The demand must be accompanied by all the supporting documents obtained to support your claim, and certain types of demand are governed by state statutes with which an attorney must fully comply. Once received, the at fault individual and/or their insurance company will then have between 30 to 90 days to review the demand and either accept or decline the settlement.
Step 5: File a Lawsuit
If settlement is unable to be reached, then it may be necessary to file a lawsuit. Again, there is a statute of limitations or time limit in which cases must be filed. Your attorney will file this for you. But a single incident may give rise to several different legal theories, each of which needs to be researched and considered before the lawsuit papers are drafted and filed. .
Step 6: Discovery
The Discovery process allows you and your attorney to obtain a great deal more information from the other side. It usually begins with interrogatories, which are written questions, and requests for the production of documentation that each side possesses. Next, are the depositions of those involved in the case such as the injured parties, medical providers and liability and damage experts. The discovery process can take just a few weeks, or several months, depending on the number of people and amount of evidence involved with the case.
Step 7: Settlement or Trial
Once the discovery process is complete, your attorney may try to negotiate with the other party again to reach a settlement before going to trial. If no amount can be agreed upon, then the case will be scheduled for trial. Trial can take anywhere between a few days to many weeks depending on the complexity of your case.
There is no set time period for how long it will take to resolve your personal injury case. There are some that can be resolved quickly, while others may drag on for years. It is a good idea to speak with your lawyer to get an estimated timeline for your case.