In an unfortunate situation where you are injured in an accident and the harm was caused by another person, you may want to look into filing a personal injury case. To do so, it is important to know the average duration of the case and how the whole process works. This article will give you a rough guideline of a standard personal injury case but it is imperative to note that most cases of this sort are often settled before it reaches the court. Hence, your personal injury case may not reach every stage of the process mentioned in the article but we believe the information here will serve you well in the future.
Seek medical attention
After getting injured, you should first receive medical treatment at a hospital or a clinic. No matter the severity of the injury, as long as you feel that you are hurt from the accident, we recommend you seek the relevant medical attention. Health should be your utmost priority, but in a legal sense, choosing not to receive medical help immediately after the accident may undermine the seriousness of the injury in the eyes of the insurance adjuster as well as the jury.
Seek a legal professional
The golden rule of personal injury cases — any case that is beyond a minor claim should be consulted with an Injuries advice solicitor at its minimum. Minor personal injury claims can be handled independently so long as you are comfortable and confident with the process. However, you should heed the help of a legal professional when discussing a case of a significant injury or if there is a dispute between the potential offender and yourself.
To better gauge the severity of your injury, ask yourself these questions: did you have to take time off work for more than a few days? Is your medical bill exceeding a thousand dollars? Did the injury impair you from your daily activities of living? If you answered yes to any of these questions, we recommend you look for a lawyer to better assist you in this case.
Investigation of claims and medical records by a lawyer
Before causing any action, the lawyer will interview you to understand the case better – from the accident, injury incurred, and the medical treatment you received. Do stay honest with your lawyer and answer all their questions truthfully for them to better serve you for the case. After the interview, the lawyer will need all the medical records and bills relevant to the injury and this step will take several months.
Making demands and negotiating claims
Most minor personal injury cases are settled before a lawsuit is filed. If your lawyer deems that the claim can be settled, they will issue a demand to either the defendant’s lawyer or his/her insurance company and negotiate with them.
A good lawyer should wait till you reach a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI) before making a demand. This means the demand stage should only begin when all medical treatment for your injury is completed and you are recovered to your fullest because the lawyer has to know how much this case is worth. In addition, filing a lawsuit before the plaintiff reaches MMI may undervalue the case in the jury’s eyes.
The litigation phase commences when the settlement talks are unsuccessful or both parties cannot agree with a mutual decision, and it is often signified by the filing of a lawsuit in court. Though pretrial procedures tend to differ across places, a standard personal injury case should take a year or two to get to trial. Do note that lawsuits have to be filed within a stringent time limit for them to be approved.
This is where both sides investigate the other party’s legal claims and defences. Interrogatories and document request to each other while they collect depositions of all related parties along with witnesses. This phase lasts from six months to a year depending on the complexity of the case as well as the court’s deadlines.
Mediation, negotiation, and settlement
Once the discovery phase ceases, lawyers of both sides start discussing settlement. While there are lawyers who prefer a discussion exclusively between the lawyers to each for an agreement, there are occasions when the plaintiff and lawyers resort to mediation. The mediation process involves the clients and their lawyers seeking assistance from a neutral third person to offer a resolution.
When mediation fails, the dispute is now settled in courts through a personal injury trial. An average trial for personal injury claims can last from a day to a week, or even more depending on the lengths of the trial (as some courts only hold trials for just half a day instead of a full day). Hence, it is good to do some research on the courts and their operating hours to have a better gauge of the total duration of trials.
It is crucial to understand that a lawsuit scheduled for trial does not equate to the trial happening on the actual stipulated date. Delayed trials are often attributed to the conflicting judge’s schedule or some other innocuous reasons. Therefore, a pushed trial does not automatically mean that you are placed in an unfavourable position so you should not fret over it excessively.
No matter the injury, we believe that everyone should receive the compensation they deserve. As an individual, it is important you seek the relevant medical treatment and consult a qualified lawyer before handing over the technical legal tasks to the legal team. Though some steps will be handled by your personal injury solicitor, understanding the legal process of a standard personal injury case may serve you well in the long run. To reiterate, personal injury cases tend to differ in terms of the process (as minor claims can be settled independently). Do refer to this article as a rough guideline and the recommendation of the next steps should come from your lawyers who have a better understanding of your situation.