What Are the Steps You Should Expect To Be Followed in Your Personal Injury Case?
A personal injury case typically involves a situation where an individual (the plaintiff) claims to have suffered harm or injury due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions of another party (the defendant). Personal injury cases can vary widely in terms of circumstances, severity, and legal proceedings, but here are some general things you can expect:
- Initial Consultation: If you believe you have a personal injury case, you will typically start by consulting with a personal injury attorney. During this consultation, you will discuss the details of your situation, and the attorney will evaluate the strength of your case.
- Investigation: If you decide to proceed with a case, your attorney will investigate the incident. This might involve gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, reviewing medical records, and assessing the extent of your injuries and damages.
- Filing the Lawsuit: If a settlement cannot be reached with the opposing party’s insurance company, your attorney may file a lawsuit. This marks the official beginning of the legal process.
- Discovery: Both sides engage in a phase called “discovery,” where they exchange information and evidence related to the case. This can involve written questions (interrogatories), document requests, depositions (recorded interviews under oath), and expert opinions.
- Negotiation and Settlement: Many personal injury cases are settled before going to trial. Your attorney will negotiate with the other party’s legal team or insurance company to reach a fair settlement that compensates you for your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
- Mediation or Alternative Dispute Resolution: If the parties are unable to reach a settlement through negotiations, they might opt for mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution. A neutral third party helps facilitate discussions to find a resolution.
- Trial (if necessary): If no settlement is reached, the case goes to trial. Both sides present their arguments, evidence, and witnesses in front of a judge and/or jury. The judge or jury then makes a decision on liability and damages.
- Verdict and Judgment: If the case goes to trial, a verdict will be reached. If you win, the court will issue a judgment that specifies the compensation you are entitled to receive. If you lose, you may have the option to appeal the decision.
- Appeals (if necessary): Either party can appeal an unfavorable decision to a higher court. Appeals focus on legal errors made during the trial rather than re-litigating the case itself.
- Enforcement: If you are awarded compensation, the defendant is typically required to pay the amount specified in the judgment. If they refuse to pay, your attorney might pursue legal avenues to enforce the judgment.
It is important to note that each personal injury case is unique, and the specifics can vary based on factors such as jurisdiction, the severity of injuries, the parties involved, and the willingness to settle. If you are considering pursuing a personal injury case, consulting with an experienced attorney is crucial to navigating the legal process effectively.
Jim Lynch has been a lawyer for 30 years representing those injured in serious accidents. He is the immediate past President of the New Jersey Association for Justice, which is New Jersey’s 2,700 Trial Lawyer Organization. Jim has had some of the largest verdicts in NJ and often teaches other lawyers insurance issues, trial practice and other aspects of litigation.