How Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Work?

If this is the first time you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit is probably new territory to you. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of filing a claim. In this article, we’ll break down the steps involved in an injury case so you can understand the basics of how it works and what to expect.

When most people think of lawsuits, they imagine having to get up and testify in front of a judge and jury and being cross-examined by lawyers. One thing you may not know is that in many cases the injured party will never end up in court. Chances are your case will be settled directly with the at-fault party’s insurance company, making a trial unnecessary.

Keep reading to learn more about the ins and outs of the average personal injury lawsuit. Your lawyer can give you more specific information about your case.

Types of Personal Injury

There are at least 19 different types of personal injury cases. These are some of the most common types of personal injury cases that are typically brought against at-fault parties.

  • Vehicle accidents
  • Slip and fall
  • Workplace accidents
  • Dog bites
  • Medical malpractice
  • Product liability
  • Drug injury
  • Property liability
  • Exposure to toxins

The one common factor all of these types of lawsuits will share is that another party was negligent, that negligence caused the injury, and the injury led to the plaintiff’s damages.

Types of Damages

These are the types of damages you may be able to claim in your lawsuit, depending on the specifics of your accident or illness.

  • Medical bills: An accident can result in expensive emergency room bills, and if you’re hospitalized the costs can be in excess of $100,000.
  • Lost wages: After an accident, you could miss days, weeks, or even months of work, leaving you without the ability to cover your bills.
  • Pain and suffering: Your pain and suffering also have value in the eyes of the law because it can interfere with every aspect of your life.
  • Emotional distress: In many states, signs of emotional distress like loss of sleep and anxiety also have value in a personal injury suit.
  • Loss of consortium: This type of damage refers to the loss of the companionship and sexual relationship with your spouse.
  • Loss of enjoyment: This type of damage refers to the loss of the ability to enjoy the hobbies, activities, and interests you once enjoyed before your injuries.
  • Property damage: In some cases, especially vehicle accidents, the property may be damaged, including cars and any property that was destroyed by the car.

You may have additional types of damages in your case beyond those listed above. Your lawyer will help you gather the evidence to prove your damages.

The Attorney’s Investigation

Your lawyer will conduct an investigation into the facts of your case. Once they have all of the necessary facts they will be able to put together the evidence and their argument to present it to the defendant’s insurance company. This could be an auto insurance company, homeowner’s insurance, a business’s insurance, or another type of coverage.

The first part of this investigation will involve interviewing you about your accident. During the interview, it’s important to be completely honest with the attorney and to tell them everything you can recall, down to the smallest detail. The lawyer is also going to ask you about any medical treatment you received due to your accident.

After the interview, you’ll need to give your lawyer your medical records, paycheck stubs, proof of missed work, and any other evidence that is pertinent to your case.

Negotiation and Settlement

The next part of the process involves your lawyer making a demand to the at-fault party’s insurer or their attorney. This will not happen until you have completely recovered from your injuries. If the demand is made before this, you may still require further treatment that you wouldn’t be compensated for.

If your injuries were minor or your damages are high and you have compelling evidence, the defendant’s insurance may choose to settle with you out of court. If the other side feels that your evidence is weak they may offer you a settlement that is not adequate or refuse to settle at all. When this happens, you’ll end up in court.

A Court Trial

The first step in a court trial is to file the case. This must be done within the statute of limitations. After that, you will enter into the discovery phase. During this phase, both sides will investigate the other party’s claims, ask questions, and take depositions. This can take anywhere from several months to more than a year.

After that, your lawyer and the other side’s attorney will begin the process of negotiations. If they fail to come to an agreement, your case will go to trial. A settlement can happen at any point in your case, including immediately before the jury hears it. If it doesn’t, a judge or jury will hear your case and decide how much you are entitled to or whether you deserve compensation at all.

In most cases, your personal injury attorney’s fees and any other fees such as the cost of expert witnesses will come out of your settlement or award at the case’s conclusion.

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