Estimated reading time: 3 mins
Understanding the legal process is essential for anyone considering a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury lawsuit involves a claim for compensation against one or more people who caused an accident that injured the plaintiff.
An agreed-upon settlement or a court- or jury-led trial are possible ways to settle the dispute. A trial is when both sides present their evidence in court.
Filing a Complaint
After a client has been injured due to the negligent conduct of another, an attorney must file a complaint in a proper court of law. It is the first official document in a case that sets out what happened and why.
The defendant (or their lawyer) must then file an answer to the complaint. They will also submit a statement of defenses and counterclaims, if appropriate.
Attorneys like W. Shane Jennings may subpoena records to obtain information from third parties during discovery. It might consist of employers, healthcare providers, and other stakeholders.
If you’ve ever been inside a courthouse, you might have seen lawyers wheeling Samsonite catalog cases or pushing folding carts stacked with cardboard boxes. These boxes contain evidence gathered during discovery, the pre-trial process in which parties ask each other for information about the case and respond to written questions under oath.
This investigative process enables the plaintiff and defense attorneys to build their case by collecting and evaluating information, including medical bills, evidence of how damages were calculated (including lost income, future expenses, and emotional trauma), photographs, and other pertinent documents. It also includes face-to-face questioning sessions called depositions.
Depositions are written requests to the defendant to provide copies of documents and things relevant to the case. The defense attorney may intentionally make these requests as lengthy as possible to delay the release of funds from the settlement.
Lawyers use various methods to estimate special damages, like adding up the financial costs of medical care and using pay stubs to calculate lost wages. Your personal injury lawyer will consider your future expenses when calculating the compensation for general damages such as pain and suffering.
Many personal injury cases end up in mediation. It’s a negotiation process that involves a neutral third party who helps disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable settlement.
Mediation is usually scheduled after depositions are taken and before the pre-trial conference. Insurance companies often use this time to make low settlement offers, hoping that scared, unprepared lawyers will encourage their clients to take them.
A skilled personal injury attorney will prepare their client for mediation and be ready to negotiate a fair settlement. They will also be ready to fight if the case does not settle in mediation.
Although most personal injury cases settle outside of court, your case will proceed to trial if a fair settlement isn’t reached during mediation. The trial is a very structured process. It is similar to the trials you see on television.
The defendant will put on their defense while your attorney presents your case to the judge or jury. After that, the judge or jury will decide how to resolve your claim. Before trial, you will have a hearing where the judge will decide essential dates for your case. This hearing is called a scheduling hearing.
During this phase, your lawyer will negotiate the financial compensation you deserve. This process can take a while since most injury cases involve substantial money.
You and your attorney will present your case to a judge or jury during the trial. After hearing both sides, they will issue a ruling determining how much the defendant must pay you to resolve your injury claim. The judge will consider various factors, including medical bills and invoices, time lost from work, and other economic losses. The judge may also award you non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
Once the jury has considered all the evidence and testimony, it will decide whether to compensate the plaintiff for their losses. If they do, the amount awarded will depend on the severity of the injuries suffered and how much the injury has affected their life.
The presiding judge will then provide the jury with instructions regarding the law, and the jury will begin deliberating. Personal injury trials frequently last several days. A “hung jury” occurs when 9 of the 12 jurors cannot reach a consensus, necessitating a new jury to try the case.