How Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Work

Accidents happen every day, and they seem as if they occur by chance. Traumatic events usually take place because of an individual’s action or inaction. If you sustained injuries due to negligence, you might be entitled to reimbursement under the law. Bodily harm affects people physically and emotionally.

Some victims are unable to return to work. After you see a doctor, your first action should be to find a lawyer. Your attorney helps you take the necessary steps to file a lawsuit. Most personal injury claims follow the same process to recover damages.

A case is not always simple, and people can have questions. They might wonder how a personal injury lawsuit works.

When You Should File a Personal Injury Lawsuit

How Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit WorkYou should seek compensation when you believe the other party was negligent. Their insurance company has to issue you a payment to cover damages. However, some people are unable to get a hold of the insurer. An adjuster could take weeks to call you back in an attempt to delay your claim.

If the insurance company does give you an offer, the potential payout might have a low value. If you request a fair settlement, the adjuster might refuse for any reason. Some people choose the minimal offer, but you have the opportunity to file a personal injury lawsuit.

The complicated legal system can take time to navigate. A personal injury lawyer helps you ensure the process goes as efficiently as possible.

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What Falls Under Personal Injury?

Personal injury is a broad category, and many cases belong to the group. Negligence can give rise to a variety of situations. As a result, the civil court system sees thousands of people recover damages every year.

You might see lawsuits for:

  • Motor vehicle collisions. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and pedestrians can end up in accidents. Usually, the other driver did not follow traffic laws or had a misjudgment. You could hold them responsible for the damage. Other parties could be accountable for a crash as well.
  • Dog bites. A bite from someone else’s dog can lead to a personal injury lawsuit. Owners must ensure their pets are on a leash or behind a fence. Even if a dog does not have a violent history, you can file a lawsuit against the owner.
  • Premises liability. Many cases revolve around accidents on another person’s property. Slippery floors with no signs, cracked pavement, and broken stairs are grounds for a lawsuit. The property owner might be liable if they did not fix a hazardous condition.
  • Product liability. Not every product has an adequate design. An item could be unsafe if the manufacturer displayed negligence during production. You could have a valid case if the safety warnings or instructions were not reasonably clear.

Some people do not know if an accident qualifies as a personal injury case. A meeting with a lawyer can help you understand if you can get reimbursement.

How Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Work?

Submit a Complaint and Summons

Personal injury claims work to hold the negligent party accountable. A lawsuit goes through multiple steps, and the first one is to file the complaint. The complaint identifies the details of the case and names the defendant and plaintiff.

You would describe what the defendant did, and the document lists how the opposing side harmed you. The document includes how much money you demand from the defendant. Once you sign the complaint, your attorney serves it to the liable person.

Some jurisdictions require plaintiffs to file a summons as well. The document identifies the parties involved and why you will sue the defendant. Then, your lawyer locates the opposing side and serves a copy.

If the government is the liable party, you need to submit a notice of claim first. The notice of claim lists where the accident occurred and when. You would explain your injuries and the amount of money you demand.

The Defendant Responds

Once the defendant receives a copy of the complaint and summons, they have a limited time to file an answer. The person generally has about a month to hire a defense lawyer. The attorney is the one to submit a response.

The other party answers each allegation with either an admission or a denial. They may file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit as well. The court can grant the defendant’s request and dismiss your entire complaint or a part of it.

Discovery

The next step of the lawsuit process is the discovery phase. During the pre-trial stage, both sides investigate each other’s claims and evidence. The plaintiff’s lawyer may submit a request for admission. They ask the defendant to admit or deny the accusations. The request helps the attorney know what issues the other side might contest.

Lawyers typically send interrogatories during the discovery phase. Interrogatories are questions, and your attorney asks the defendant for more information. You can learn where to find additional evidence you had not considered before.

Depositions usually take place, and lawyers from each side interview witnesses. A court reporter is present to transcribe what people say. Some depositions have a video recording as well. A witness gives a statement about how the accident happened.

Testimonies are often necessary to build a convincing case. The discovery phase can take a few months to complete

Mediation

Both parties attempt to negotiate a fair settlement after the discovery. The attorneys may talk amongst themselves or have their clients present. In many cases, the plaintiff and defendant attend mediation. During mediation, a neutral third party helps each side reach an agreement.

Around 95 percent of personal injury lawsuits can settle out of court and do not reach trial. A pre-trial settlement is more likely to satisfy you with fair reimbursement.

Trial

If neither party is satisfied with the proposed compensation amount, the case proceeds with the trial. Trials have less predictable outcomes. Additionally, plaintiffs generally have a lower chance of success. The type of personal injury case affects the probability of a desirable outcome.

For example, a healthcare provider has an 80 percent chance of winning a medical malpractice case containing weak evidence. The plaintiff has a 50 percent success rate if they have a strong argument. The jury decides in the plaintiff’s favor in 57 percent of car accident lawsuits.

Personal Injury Time Limits

Personal injury lawsuits operate under a state’s statute of limitations. The statute of limitations determines how long someone has to start a claim. Otherwise, they lose the ability to collect compensation. Each state has a different deadline. You could have two, three, or four years.

A few cases qualify for an exception to the statute of limitations. Underage victims can wait until they turn 18 to start a lawsuit. However, they generally have a year or two after their birthday. Another exception is if the defendant leaves the state. Perhaps, you did not reasonably discover the injury’s connection to the accident until later.

Lawsuits against the government follow a different deadline. The time frame to send a notice to the correct agency is narrow. Speak to a personal injury attorney to learn more about how the statute of limitations applies to your case.

The Settlement Process

The plaintiff needs to be persistent and straightforward during negotiations. You are more likely to get a fair deal as a result. Once you and the defendant agree with a proposed settlement, you need to sign papers.

Both parties have to complete the documents the court issues on time. One paper you have to sign is the release form. The defense prepares the form, and your attorney checks to see if the terms are acceptable.

The insurance company does not issue any money until the plaintiff submits the release form. Once you sign the document, you cannot sue the other party in the future for the same accident. Make sure you have recovered enough to get the most out of your claim.

The settlement process requires you to resolve any liens as well. You might have a government or medical lien to pay. The insurer mails the compensation, and your lawyer receives the check. After they take out legal fees, they send the rest of your settlement to you.

How Do You Get the Settlement Money?

After you sign the settlement papers, the money either comes as a lump sum or structured settlement. A lump sum means the insurance company sends a single paycheck. The check contains the entire compensation amount. You have all the funds available to pay for immediate concerns.

A structured settlement is when you get multiple payments instead of one. The amount of money and frequency of checks varies in each case. You can plan for the long-term, and you do not need to worry about using all the money quickly.

If the victim was a minor, they do not receive a settlement right away. In many cases, the payment goes to a separate account. Children can access their money once they turn 18.

Reasons to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

When you debate whether to hire a lawyer, you should consider the benefits of one.

The advantages of a personal injury attorney are:

  • Negotiation skills. The other side does whatever they can to not pay a lot of money. The defense can have persuasive arguments to lower compensation. You need someone who can handle the challenge. A lawyer deals with insurance companies to secure a fair deal.
  • Peace of mind. Many traumatic events leave an injured person with plenty of emotional stress. A lawsuit adds more concerns to a person who struggles with recovery and bills. A lawyer deals with the challenging parts of a case for you. You know you are in good hands while you focus on other matters.
  • Proof of liability. Personal injury lawyers know what legal elements to meet to prove negligence. They investigate each claim thoroughly to discover the cause and how actions led to injuries. Your attorney identifies strong evidence to use in your lawsuit.
  • Accurate claim values. Multiple factors influence how much a case is worth. If a person is unfamiliar with the law, they might not know how to calculate compensation. Lawyers can estimate how much you should get for medical expenses and mental anguish.

A lawsuit becomes an uphill battle if you do not have a lawyer by your side. Find a firm you can connect with before you hire one.

Prepare for a Consultation

Consultations provide people with a chance to learn about their legal options. You can check to see if a lawyer is a good fit for your case. The initial meeting does not cost you a penny. After you schedule a consultation, you should prepare for the visit.

You should expect to answer all sorts of questions from the attorney. Lawyers need to get a better understanding of the situation to identify a valid case. You would explain what happened leading up to the incident and after. The attorney may ask about your injuries and treatment plan.

Prepare to bring accident-related documents to the consultation. One document to have on you is a police report. While reports are not admissible, your lawyer can use them as a source of information. Medical records can give an attorney the answers they need about the nature of your injuries.

If you have any, bring photos of the accident scene, damaged property, or injuries. The lawyer might not examine all documents in detail during the first meeting. However, they conduct a full investigation once you agree to hire them.

During the consultation, you can ask the attorney some questions. You can learn if they have handled similar cases in the past. Another possible question is how involved the firm expects you to be. The attorney answers the best they can in the limited time they have with you.

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