There is always a great deal of uncertainty in personal injury lawsuits. Yet, you don’t have to be “in the dark” about your legal case. Here is what you can expect before and after you file a personal injury lawsuit:
- You suffer harm due to negligence.
- You get medical attention.
- You hire a personal injury attorney.
- Your attorney investigates your case.
- Your lawyer files an insurance claim and enters negotiations.
- If your negotiations succeed, you can accept a settlement.
- If negotiations do not succeed, you can file an injury lawsuit.
There is no one-size-fits-all trajectory when it comes to personal injury lawsuit timelines. Your case’s progression, obligations, and goals might be different than someone else’s. In any case, hiring a lawyer can help you navigate the financial recovery process.
The Progression of Many Personal Injury Cases
Although the following scenario may not reflect your own, in general, here’s what you can expect when seeking damages:
Stage 1: You Got Hurt from an Accident
Usually, accidents happen when people least expect them. You were going through an ordinary day, and then, bam. Someone hit your car, or you experienced some other type of accident.
You discovered that you got injured in the accident. Most people feel the discomfort or see physical signs of wounds immediately, but some kinds of injury can take hours or even a few days to manifest symptoms.
Stage 2: You Got a Medical Exam and Treatment
You visited a medical professional at the emergency room, urgent care center, or your doctor’s office. The doctor prescribed specific treatments for your injuries or referred you to a specialist for care. You likely had to undergo diagnostic procedures like x-rays or other tests.
Stage 3: You Talked to and Hired a Personal Injury Attorney
Although it could take many months to reach maximum medical improvement, it’s a good idea to consider legal representation as soon as possible. After all, the at-fault party and their insurance company will start working to protect their interests. Why not you, too?
When you have a lawyer representing you, the insurance company and defendant are not allowed to contact you directly. You will not have to deal with getting harassed or badgered. If the insurance company or defendant contacts you, you simply tell them to talk to your lawyer.
Stage 4: Your Attorney Investigates the Accident and Your Injuries
Your personal injury lawyer will review your case’s details, including when and where you got hurt. They may also request a copy of the accident report or talk to eyewitnesses.
Your attorney will also explore how your accident happened to determine who carries liability for your losses.
Stage 5: Your Lawyer Contacts the Negligent Party’s Insurance Company
After investigating the accident and your injuries, your lawyer will calculate what you’re owed. From there, they will send a demand letter to the insurance company and request reimbursement for your various losses.
Stage 6: Your Lawyer and the Insurer Exchange Information
After getting your demand letter, the claims adjuster will want certain information (like your medical records and the police report) to evaluate the validity of your claim. All of this information should go from your attorney to the insurance company–– not directly from you to the claims adjuster.
Claims adjusters frequently ask injured people to give recorded statements. If anyone from the insurance company asks you to give a recorded statement, tell them to talk to your lawyer instead. Recorded statements only benefit the insurance company––not you.
Stage 7: Your Attorney Negotiates with the Defendant’s Insurance Company
Negotiations could take weeks or months. There are two considerations while this process unfolds:
- There’s a deadline for personal injury lawsuits. The deadline depends on your situation, including where you live. If you miss that deadline, the law will forever bar you from seeking damages for your injuries, according to the American Bar Association (ABA).
- In general, you don’t want to accept a settlement until you have completed your medical treatment. Because medical treatment could take a long time, it might be necessary to file a lawsuit to protect your claim.
Stage 8: If the Claim Settles, Settlement Documents Get Drafted
Even after a lawsuit gets filed, your lawyer can continue to negotiate with the insurance company. If your claim settles, the lawyers will prepare the settlement documents for your signature.
You should never sign settlement papers or other legal documents without your attorney first reading and approving them. If you agree to a settlement, your case ends, and you cannot ask for more damages.
Stage 9: Closing the Settlement – Signing Papers and Getting the Check
After the documents get finalized, typically, you would go to your attorney’s office to discuss the terms of the settlement and sign the papers. When the administrative matters are completed, you will get a check for your portion of the settlement proceeds.
Stage 10: If the Claim does Not Settle, the Case Could Go to Court
If the insurance company will not pay a reasonable amount to settle your claim, you could file a lawsuit. Your lawsuit would be filed against the at-fault party––not the insurance company.
Stage 11: Filing the Lawsuit
Your lawyer would need to prepare the petition and other initial documents (called “pleadings”) and file them in court. The defendant gets served with the paperwork and has a limited time to file a written response.
Stage 12: Pre-Trial Discovery
The defendant can hire a lawyer or represent themselves. Your lawyer will find and exchange information with the other party before your case begins. That way, everyone is working with the same evidence.
The pre-trial stage could last for months or even a year or two, depending on the complexity of the case, the number of plaintiffs and defendants, and the court’s trial docket. Still, this should not deter you from seeking what you need.
Stage 13: Court Hearings
During the pre-trial phase, your attorneys might have to go to court to attend and participate in several hearings, like motions and settlement conferences.
Stage 14: Trial
Finally, the date of your trial arrives. Some trials can get completed in a day or two, while other personal injury trials can last for weeks or months. Your attorney will have to prove all the elements of negligence to establish liability, according to the ABA.
With a jury trial, you will get the results after the jury finishes its deliberations. In personal injury cases, that could take a few hours, a day or two, or longer. In a judge-tried case, it could be months before you know the outcome.
Stage 15: Appeal
If either side is unhappy with the results of the trial, they could file an appeal. Appeals can take a year or two, sometimes longer. Often, however, the parties continue negotiating while the appeal is pending and, sometimes, come to a fair agreement.
Our Lawyers Can Explain More About Your Personal Injury Lawsuit’s Timeline
At D. Miller & Associates, PLLC™, we help people who get injured due to the carelessness of others. We offer a free initial consultation. For attentive representation from a law firm that is highly accessible to its clients, just give us a call. You can call us today at 1(855) PRO-LAWYERS. There is no obligation.
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