A personal injury case is a methodical and somewhat complicated process. Knowing what to expect and being informed about what happens in an injury case means you will be ready (and know what to do) should you ever find yourself involved in an accident or injury caused by another. Here we share the steps that a personal injury case follows. What you do after an accident or injury and how you handle these steps directly affects the outcome of your claim.
Get Medical Attention, Document & Save Everything
Immediately after being injured in any type of accident, you should seek medical assistance. You could have injuries that are not immediately obvious so it is wise to get examined thoroughly by a doctor. A visit to a medical facility results in the injury being recorded by a professional, which is to your advantage. Write down everything you can remember about the occurrence, and provide pictures if possible. Also collect records of the medical bills and hospital visits that occur as a result of the injury.
Consult with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
How do you know if you have a case? Take advantage of a free consultation. Choose an experienced personal injury attorney and bring all details with you when you meet. When you see the attorney, your case will be evaluated to determine the likelihood of reaching settlement, or the possible need to take the case to court. The lawyer will consider the facts of the case, the case merits, possible financial expenses and results, possible trial length, and the litigation costs. The attorney will advise you on how to proceed. Bear in mind that any and all evidence that you collected will help the attorney assess your personal injury case.
Paperwork & Initial Filings
Of course with a legal case there is paperwork to be done, which your attorney will explain to you. He or she should also explain what happens at the beginning of a lawsuit. The first papers filed in a lawsuit are called pleadings. There will be additional papers involved with this process, however all cases follow this same initial step. You will first have to fill out a Complaint/Petition, which gives a basic premise of what the plaintiff knows or heard from someone else as to what took place at the accident. The Summons and Service of Process is sent to the defendant, which notifies the party of a lawsuit being filed. When the defendant responds to the Summons, this is known as an Answer. The Answer will be influential as to how the rest of your case proceeds, because it requires either one of the three responses: “admitted,” “denied,” or “insufficient knowledge to admit or deny.”
At this time, the Plaintiff and the Defendant share all their facts about the case (sending them to each other through their attorneys). The exchange and review of all facts is called the discovery phase of the case. This is when medical records, personal information, extent of injuries and any long term side effects, and any other related material 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 detail.
Settling a Case vs. Going to Trial
Most personal injury lawsuits never go to trial. It is less costly and less time-consuming to reach a settlement agreement between the two parties. Waiting for a trial can drag the case out for a year or longer. After the discovery phase, the plaintiff (the injured party) will most likely be offered a settlement – your attorney will alert you to the settlement offer and advise whether it is acceptable.
If You Go to Trial
In cases where no settlement is offered or the settlement is rejected, the plaintiff’s attorney will file for a court trial. Keep in mind that it can take many months, a year, or even longer, before your trial happens. At trial, your attorney will present your case, while the defense will attempt to deny or reduce responsibility by the defendant and keep the compensation, if awarded, to a minimum. At this time, the experience and abilities of your injury attorney are critical if you are to prevail. The trial follows these steps: 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.
If you’ve been injured in the state of Texas due to another party’s actions or negligence, it is in your best interest to obtain legal representation. You will want a skilled legal advisor to help you navigate through the complicated process of a personal injury claim. Familiarizing yourself with the process and being prepared should this ever happen to you or a loved one is a good idea. Because as we all know…unfortunately…accidents happen.