If you are certain that you have a personal injury claim, one of your biggest concerns would be how long it will take and what each stage of the process looks like.
Below is a walk-through of the standard process.
Stages of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Seek Medical Treatment
Make sure that you get checked out by a doctor after your accident even if you do not think you are injured. Car accident injuries don’t always show right away.
A car accident can be a traumatic and stressful event and our bodies react by producing endorphins and adrenaline to help us cope with the shock. This reaction may mask the fact that we are injured and as a result, we might not notice very serious injuries right away.
Additionally, when we are injured, our bodies try to heal by attacking the infection and rebuilding tissue. This reaction may cause swelling and inflammation which can begin to show up days later after an injury.
An example of an injury that may not show up immediately is a nerve injury. It tends to get worse over time and it may indicate internal injuries. Other examples include brain injuries and whiplash.
If you suffered from injuries that might not be evident right away, your best defense is to prove that you did seek medical treatment after your accident. This way, you will have evidence that you made a reasonable effort to uncover your injury.
Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer
While it is possible to settle your own personal injury claim on your own, you should consider hiring a personal injury lawyer if you suffered significant injuries.
If your medical bill and damages are more than a few thousand dollars, you lost your job, your physical injuries involved broken bones or left you disabled then you should hire a lawyer.
It’s a good idea to speak to more than one lawyer so as to gauge which one you are comfortable working with. The good thing is that most personal injury lawyers offer a free initial consultation so you can speak to as many lawyers as you like free of charge.
Some of the things that you should consider while choosing a lawyer include:
- Their availability. How many cases are they working on and are they able to take on your case immediately? It goes without saying that a lawyer that’s working back to back on cases might take their time getting to your case or they might not work on it as meticulously as you would like.
- Their experience. Whether they have ten year or ten months experience, the most important detail you should be looking for is if they have ever gone to trial. You should be wary of lawyers that have never taken a case to trial. It might be an indication that they prefer to settle cases out of court to avoid the hassle of going to trial. This usually means that you might not get justice if the accident wasn’t your fault.
Your Lawyer Investigates Claims and Medical Records
Your lawyer will want to know every single detail about your medical treatment, your injuries and your accident. They will interview you to establish how your accident happened, if you had injuries prior to your accident and your back ground among other details.
Your lawyer will then retrieve your medical bills and records relating to the injury. This process might take several months. Once they have all the necessary records, they will review them to determine if you have a case. In most cases, your lawyer will tell you if you have a case after they are done reviewing your records.
Your Lawyer will Determine if Your Case will go to Trial
A good lawyer will file a lawsuit if your injuries are serious or they caused permanent disability. Additionally, they will not make a claim until you have reached your maximum medical improvement (MMI)point. This is the point at which you have finished your treatment and your recovery is as good as it will get.
The sad news is that it could take you several years to reach MMI and a reputable lawyer should wait until you reach this point. If your finances allow then you too can also wait but if you can’t your case could go to trial but the jury might undervalue your case.
Filing a Lawsuit
It typically takes 1-2 years for a personal injury case to go to trial.
The Discovery Process
This is the phase where the other party‘s lawyer sends interrogatories, takes depositions and sends document requests. Depending on the complexity and court deadlines, this process might take anywhere from six months to a year.
Mediation and Negotiation
After discovery, your lawyer will start talking about a settlement with the other party. They might reach an agreement among themselves but if this doesn’t happen, they might opt to go to a mediator to settle your case.
If mediation doesn’t work then your case will be scheduled for trial. A trial can last a day to a week or even longer. Sometimes trials get delayed or rescheduled so it’s best to consult your lawyer if this happens.