A personal injury case is not a quick and simple process. Some cases are more easily handled and settled than others, but if you or a loved one has been injured, then it is best to know what to expect. You must understand that you will be involved in the case for quite a while. A personal injury/auto accident case follows certain steps, which we outline below.
Seek Treatment and Collect Evidence
As soon as you have been injured in any type of incident or car accident, you should seek medical treatment. Your injuries should be evaluated by a professional doctor and the injuries must be recorded. This is to your advantage, should you need to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. It’s also very important that you write down everything you remember about the incident or situation that led to your injury (or your loved one’s injuries.) From the beginning, you should always record everything associated with the accident and injuries, and keep records of all medical bills, lost work, medications needed, etc.
Meet with an Attorney – Free Initial Consultation
You may be wondering if you have a case, or if you should accept the amount that the insurance company is offering to you? This is exactly the time to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney and take advantage of a free consultation. Your injury attorney will be able to evaluate your accident or situation and determine the likelihood of reaching a fair settlement. He or she will also consider the possibility of your case going to trial in a court of law.
The attorney will advise you on how the case merits possible financial compensation and possible trial or litigation length. The attorney will also advise you on how to proceed. Keep in mind that any and all evidence that you collected will help the attorney assess your personal injury case.
Initial Court Papers
Once you’ve selected a personal injury attorney to help you, he or she will explain the paperwork that is involved. This initial paperwork officially launches your lawsuit. The first papers filed in a case are called pleadings. There can be even more papers involved with this process, however all cases will – at the minimum – include the documents we name here. You will first have to fill out a Complaint/Petition, which gives a basic premise of what took place at the accident, or it describes the situation that caused the illness or injury.
A document called the Summons and Service of Process will be sent to the defendant. It notifies them that the case is being filed. The defendant then responds to the summons, which is called the Answer. This answer influences how the rest of your case will go, because it requires the defendant to make one of these responses: admit, deny, or having insufficient knowledge to admit or deny.”
The facts brought by the plaintiff and the defendant that are sent to each other are the discovery phase of the case. This is when medical records, personal information, extent of injuries, any long term side effects, and any other related materials are exchanged. Written questions and answers from the injured party and witnesses are also placed on record. It is always best to give all information to your injury attorney and not withhold any details.
Despite what you see on television, very few cases actually go to trial. The majority of personal injury claims involve communications back and forth between the plaintiff and defendant. Information is requested and shared over many months or even years. And then these cases are settled, with a settlement offer being made from the insurance company to the injured party. Your attorney will advise you whether, in his or her professional opinion, the settlement is fair. Your attorney will either encourage you to accept the settlement or keep fighting to achieve a fair and just amount.
In cases where no settlement is offered or the settlement is considered not acceptable, the plaintiff’s attorney will file for court proceedings. Keep in mind that it can take many months sometimes even a year or more, before your trial comes in front of a jury. At trial, your attorney will present your case, while the defense will attempt to keep any payout to a minimum. The defendant may deny all responsibility. This is when the experience and abilities of your injury attorney are essential. The trial will go in the following order: jury selection, opening statements by the plaintiff and defendant, plaintiff presentation of facts, defendant presentation of facts, closing statements, jury deliberation, and finally the verdict.
Unfortunately, injuries can be caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness. Our injury law firm in McAllen, Texas sees all types of auto accident cases as well as slip and fall cases and job related injuries. It’s always wise to speak to an injury attorney before speaking with insurance companies.