What is the timeline of a personal injury lawsuit?
If you think you have a possible personal injury lawsuit, you may be wondering what the process is like, the timeline, and how to navigate it. A personal injury lawsuit can vary from state to state, and a wide range of situations can arise depending on the case. As a result, legal issues can be overwhelming and challenging. This blog will walk you through the process to better understand the timelines and what you can expect. Below, we break down the general timeline of a personal injury lawsuit, so you know the appropriate steps to take over time.
Personal injury lawsuit timeline
1) Seek medical attention
Before doing anything else and most certainly before considering legal action, you need to get assessed by medical professionals to get the proper diagnosis and treatment. This will help to avoid any questions later on from insurance adjusters or a jury, about whether you actually suffered an injury in the accident.
2) Find and have an initial meeting with a lawyer
It's essential early on, after the initial medical care, to research and find an attorney who actually specializes in personal injury cases and trials. Once you have selected an attorney, your first meeting will involve a discussion regarding the circumstances of your accident to determine if you have a winnable case. Your attorney will ask questions regarding the accident, your medical condition, and treatment and prior medical history, as well as your work history, and your background. Obviously, it’s critical that you provide the specific and accurate details so that the attorney can assist you. The attorney will decide if the case can be successful. If so, you will retain the attorney by signing an agreement and provide authorizations to obtain your medical records and information regarding your employment and lost wages
After accepting your case, your attorney and their staff will obtain information from the various witnesses. They will collect all the facts about the accident and all the medical records regarding the medical care and treatment as well as the medical expenses and the income you lost due to the accident.
Once you have recovered and discontinued treatment or it become clear that you will not benefit from further treatment, your attorney will often provide all the relevant information on the harm you suffered to the insurance company adjusters to see if the case can be settled before suit is filed. If the insurance company has any interest in settlement, then negotiations will begin. You will be kept informed regarding the negotiations, since the decision to take the offer from the insurance company is up to you. Your lawyer will file a lawsuit if it is clear the case cannot be settled. The defendant will be served with a notice of the lawsuit.
4) Discovery process
After the lawsuit is filed, “discovery” begins. This is the process by which each side obtains information from the other. This process can last approximately six months to a year, depending on the court deadlines and the complexities of your case.
It involves each side sending written questions to the other. The answers to all the questions are given under oath. Your attorney will help draft your written answers to the questions posed by the other side. Each side also has the right to obtain documents from the other about the case. This can include medical records and expenses, tax returns (if a claim for lost wages is being made) and other written material which has to do with the case.
After written discovery, each side can subpoena witnesses to give a deposition, which is live question and answer under oath. Your attorney will help you prepare for this critical part of the litigation process.
Mediation is a process where the parties and their attorneys have a meeting with a neutral mediator to attempt to settle the case before the trial. If the Court orders mediation, you must attend, but the decision to settle is voluntary and no one can force you to settle. The mediator will attempt to get each party closer to a point where the case can be settled. Oftentimes it will involve the defendant paying more than it was willing to and the injured party accepting less than they believe the case is worth. In other words, it is an effort to get the parties to compromise. It is a helpful process because it helps achieve a settlement. Even if the case is not settled, oftentimes you can gain valuable insight into how the other side views your case and your evidence. This can help to shore up weaknesses before the trial.
If the case cannot be settled, the next step is the trial. The trial can be before a single judge. It can also be decided by a jury if certain conditions are met.
At trial, both parties will present evidence and witness testimony. Before the evidence is presented, each attorney will make an opening statement which outlines what the dispute is about and what evidence they will hear and see. After all the evidence is presented, each attorney will make a closing argument, outlining the evidence and emphasizing why the judge or jury should find in their favor.
Finally, the judge or jury will make a decision and issue a “judgement.”
The last aspect of the personal injury lawsuit process can be an appeal. Generally, losing party can appeal if they are unhappy with the decision. An appeal can be pursued, if the losing party believes that the judge committed an error during the litigation.
Contact JGL to speak with our personal injury attorneys
When you or a loved one has a potential personal injury lawsuit, look to the expert team at JGL Law. We have over five decades of experience handling a wide range of cases, and we are committed to our client's long-term success. Contact us today for a consultation!