In a previous post we talked about the difference between filing an insurance claim and filing a personal injury lawsuit. The information gathering and documentation steps leading up to both of these options are similar. Once the claim/lawsuit has been filed, however, the processes become quite different. In this post, we want to walk you through the steps involved in a personal injury lawsuit.
Personal injury lawsuits are notoriously complex, and because every case truly is different, the process includes many variables and lots of unpredictability. Although we are going to outline the basic format and some generally reasonable time frames, keep in mind that every case is different. Generally, the timeline for a personal injury settlement is 1-2 years. It can be much longer, though.
Here’s how things unfold:
Hiring a lawyer.
Consult an attorney immediately when you are injured. They will help you decide whether to pursue an insurance settlement or if a lawsuit is necessary. Talking with a lawyer as soon as possible after your injury is one of the best things you can do to ensure maximum protection.
This is the prep stage where you’ll be filling out paperwork and notifying the other party that you’re going to be filing a suit. Your personal injury attorney will walk you through each part of this process and will officially file the suit in court. Once suit is filed and the defendant is served, the process moves into the “discovery state”.
Pursuing full discovery.
The discovery phase can be pretty long: several months to a year. For you, it may involve continued doctor’s appointments, logging expenses and pain and suffering from the injury, and a lot of time on the phone with your insurance company and your attorney. For your attorney, this phase involves gathering information, examining witnesses, securing documentation, and consolidating all the evidence that will be used in the court trial.
Throughout the process, efforts are made to arrive at an acceptable settlement via mediation or arbitration. If this can be accomplished, that’s usually in the best interests of all parties. If no settlement can be reached outside of court, then the case will go to trial.
Going to trial.
At the trial, both sides will have the opportunity to present their evidence to the judge or jury. The jury will hand down the verdict on the case and decide compensation parameters. If either side is dissatisfied with the result, they can appeal the decision. A successful appeal could result in another trial or an alteration of the settlement terms.
Collecting the settlement.
If you win the case, you begin to collect the compensation owed to you once the proceedings are complete. The settlement may be due in a lump sum or in smaller payments, depending on the dictates of the jury.
Once again, this is a general overview of a process that is very nuanced and individually customized. Our personal injury lawyers are specialists in this field and are personally committed to keeping you informed, being honest with you throughout the entire process, and advocating relentlessly for your best interests. If you have any questions, we welcome a conversation with you. Please give us a call today!