About 100,000 attorneys in the United States practice personal injury law. Some of these attorneys have as many as 200 personal injury claim lawsuits open at one time. Getting justice for your injuries takes time, effort, and effective legal counsel.
Whether it was a car accident, medical negligence, or a work injury, you want to ensure that you start a personal injury lawsuit as soon as possible. Keep in mind that not all lawsuits move fast. Take the time to consider your personal injury lawsuit timeline.
Below, we’re going to go into what happens when you file a lawsuit. We’ll outline the things that most affect the process after you hire a lawyer.
How Long Will It Take?
“It depends on the case” doesn’t satisfy anyone, so let’s start with the basics. Most personal injury lawsuits take at least a year. Don’t set your watch by it, though.
Some personal injury cases turn out to be simple open-and-shut filings that resolve in a matter of weeks. Others drag on and last for years. The earlier you file a lawsuit, the better.
Filing early also helps you avoid issues with the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations dictates how long you have after the injury to file suit. The clock starts ticking as soon as you know you have a personal injury, though you’ll want to take some time to recover as well.
Maximum Medical Improvement
Taking time to heal does more than make the process easier on an injured body. Reaching maximum medical improvement (MMI) ensures you have a good final dollar value on the medical and emotional cost of your experience.
Consider a case of an accidental firearm discharge into your thigh. While you might be out of the hospital after a week, two weeks after that you might discover your wound has reopened and you acquired an infection in the hospital.
Only once you know the full extent of your injuries can you make a clear claim of damages. Don’t hesitate to start the other steps, though.
Navigating the Initial Filing: What to Expect in the Pre-Trial Phase
Before anything else, file a police report. Filing this as soon as possible and making it as detailed as you can will improve your odds of recovering money for your injuries. A prompt police report will also have better credibility in the eyes of the court.
After this, you’ll have to seek out an attorney. Take time to look at reviews and attorneys’ records in court. The best attorney will have a strong record of zealous advocacy.
When you first engage an attorney, you’ll have to file paperwork. This can include filing a lawsuit but may also include filing claims with the other party’s personal injury insurance. Your lawyer will walk you through all the filing processes.
You’ll also need to let the other party know that you’ve begun the process. The person who injured you must receive a copy of your complaint. If you’ve ever heard of being “served documents” by a court or an injured party, this step may sound familiar.
Sometimes the process ends here. A court may see a reason in the initial filing to dismiss the suit out of hand. Questions of process and jurisdiction get ironed out during this stage.
Navigating The Discovery Process
With all that handled, the discovery process begins. Both sides take the time to sort out the facts in the case and support their claims.
During the discovery process, the law firm will take steps to gather evidence. Despite what television law shows depict, the best attorney goes into court with no surprises and extensive information on your personal injury claim.
Discovery varies a lot from case to case. Both your lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer will undertake the process. Eyewitnesses, medical professionals, and police may speak to the attorneys to offer facts.
Other forms of evidence also come into play at this stage of a personal injury claim. If you slipped and fell in a gas station, your lawyer may ask for security camera footage. If a wooden stairwell collapsed under your feet and got you hospitalized, your legal team may ask for maintenance records.
The Role of Settlements: How Negotiations Impact the Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline
Settlement negotiations can happen at any point, including before filing a suit. Many personal injury claims stop here. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, less than 5% of personal injury claims go to trial.
A settlement occurs when the defendant agrees to pay some damages in exchange for terminating the lawsuit. During negotiations, both legal teams will discuss the facts of the case and try to find an agreeable resolution.
If all parties agree to a set of terms, the process ends there. Otherwise, the lawsuit will go to trial.
Going to Trial
During a trial, both sides present their facts to the judge or jury. The jury then judges who’s at fault and decides whether to award your claim.
Depending on the complexity of the facts, trials can take a long time, as most jurisdictions seek to establish something called comparative fault. Comparative fault assigns a percentage value to each party’s contributions to the situation and then apportions damages in accordance with that assessment.
Consider a case in which a horse escaped a stable and trampled you at a racing event. Your lawyer might say the stable operator was negligent for leaving the door open and the horse unattended for several minutes. The stable operator’s counsel could argue that you didn’t take reasonable steps to ensure your safety due to excessive drinking at the event.
The jury would decide whether the evidence supported these claims. In this case, the jury might say the stable owner only takes 70% of the blame for the injury, and a $100,000 injury claim would then lead to $70,000 in compensation.
The Long Haul
The personal injury lawsuit timeline can stretch on, especially when damages and comparative fault become hard to prove. Proving a claim can take months or even years. Nevertheless, you deserve justice.
If you want a zealous advocate with more than two decades of experience in personal injury law, contact the law office of Arturo Martinez. Mr. Martinez will make sure you get justice for your injuries.