What are the Stages in a Personal Injury Case?
Personal injury cases start long before the trial and technically before you file a claim. From the moment you are injured your case has begun. Developing your case means collecting evidence and gathering witness statements, which can be done with the assistance of an attorney.
It is important for an individual to understand the stages of a personal injury case so that they can not only assist their attorney during the case, but help properly prepare the case long before their first consultation.
The initial consultation is where an injured person meets with a personal injury attorney to decide if they want them to represent their case. The attorney will review the facts presented for the case and determine a possible outcome.
This initial consultation is not just for the attorney, but for the client, too. It gives them a chance to get to know how the attorney operates, the expectations, and to make sure they are comfortable.
The attorney will review several things during this initial meeting, including:
- Time that has passed since the injury occurred
- Evidence collected by the injured
- Availability of witnesses
- Ability of the responsible party to pay
- Costs of the case that the attorney is likely to encounter
- The amount or estimated settlement the attorney expects to receive from the case
Once the attorney and client agree to work with each another, then a demand letter is sent by the attorney to the individual or company that they intend to sue, demanding compensation on behalf of the client. Typically, attorneys will skip this step and immediately file the lawsuit, since demand letters almost always lead to a suit anyway.
Filing the Complaint and Receiving an Answer
The complaint is a legal document that the injured person signs. Then, the attorney files the legal complaint with the county clerk. The allegations will be listed by the injured (the plaintiff) in the complaint and calls out what injuries the other party (the defendant) is responsible for.
Once the complaint has been filed and the defendant is officially served, the litigation process begins. Typically the defendant will file their response with the courts, which is their “answer.” After all of the documents are filed and served for this stage, the discovery phase begins.
Discovery is where all information is exchanged between both parties and their attorneys. This can take months to complete and is not a quick process by any means. Depending on the complexity of the case, discovery could take years.
This process also educates both sides about any evidence in the case and helps eliminate any surprises at trial. There are a lot of questions and answers sent back and forth between attorneys, demands for evidence, and depositions.
Depositions are meetings between the attorneys, plaintiff, defendant and witnesses. It is the official statement to see if and how knowledgeable each person is of the facts in the case. The attorney can demand they are present for the other side’s deposition. These are often video taped or recorded.
Depositions do not substitute for testimony in a trial, but they allow both sides to learn everything possible before actually taking their case to trial. Also, the discovery process gives attorneys enough time to do all last minute work so that they are ready for the trial.
Motions, Hearings, and the Summary Judgment
Legal issues must be addressed and are often argued between both sides long before the case goes to trial. These issues are still brought to the attention of the courts and heard in front of a judge. The biggest motion is that of the summary judgment. This is made when both sides have all of the evidence they need and they bring an argument for summary judgment to the courts. The summary judgment will decide which is the mostfavorable side in the lawsuit. This could mean the other side has little to no options if the summary is not found in favor of them.
If parties do not settle outside of court, they will go to trial. In most personal injury claims, however, parties will reach a settlement outside of court, especially if the summary judgement favors the plaintiff.
But, if the case does proceed to trial, then the case will be heard in front of a judge or be tried by a jury. They will see the evidence and decide who is telling the truth and who is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. If the defendant is found guilty, then the judge or jury will also decide how much they must pay in compensation after they give their verdict. This amount can, however, be changed by a judge.
After the settlement or verdict and payment is made, the monies are given to the personal injury attorney. The attorney will then remove their expenses and fee from the amount and then distribute a check to the plaintiff.
In some cases, the judge can make a legal error. For example, the judge instructs the jurors inaccurately and therefore they do not favor the plaintiff even though the evidence was pointing that way. Attorneys can seek an appeal if they believe there was an error in the case, but this is something you would have to discuss with Boca Raton personal injury lawyer for free consultation if you lost your case at trial.
Have a Personal Injury Case? Contact the Attorneys at Glotzer & Kobren Today
If you have a personal injury claim, contact us for a free consultation by calling 561-300-6900. We can offer you a free case evaluation and tell you right away if you have a valid claim. The law limits how much time you have to file your claim, so call now for more info.