Getting involved in an accident is a stressful experience in itself. Having to file a lawsuit against the at-fault-party as part of the aftermath of an accident adds to the stress of dealing with the accident, and can be taxing on both you and your loved ones. Most people have never been involved in a lawsuit, so you might be wondering what to expect during a personal injury case.
This article will give you a general overview of what happens during a typical personal injury lawsuit.
Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
To help you handle your case, you will need to hire an experienced and trustworthy personal injury attorney. You want to be represented by someone who knows how to fight for you and ensure that you’ll get a fair settlement. The best ways to find a personal injury lawyer include:
- Referrals from friends. Perhaps you know friends, colleagues, or family members who have recently hired a personal injury lawyer. You can contact them and ask if they would strongly recommend that lawyer or if they had a good experience with them.
- Referrals from lawyers. If you already know a lawyer, you can ask him/her to refer you to someone who can help you with your case. Even if the lawyer you know might not have experience in handling personal injury cases, there is a good chance that he/she knows someone who does.
- Websites or social media platforms. Nowadays, most lawyers and law offices can easily be found online—whether it’s through their website or social media pages. You can research personal injury attorneys on the Internet and read their reviews and case results.
Before you decide to hire an attorney, make sure that you speak with the attorney who would be handling your case and ensure that you are comfortable with working together.
At 801-INJURED, we pride ourselves on providing friendly, professional, and personal service to our clients. One of our attorneys will handle your case personally, and we’ll walk with you through the process from start to finish.
Take Note of the Statute of Limitations
In all personal injury cases, there is a maximum amount of time in which you have to initiate legal proceedings. This law is called the statute of limitations, and you must file a lawsuit before it expires.
The statute of limitations varies depending on which state you live in. If you want to file a personal injury lawsuit in Utah, depending on the type of injury you’ve suffered, you generally have up to 4 years from the date of the injury before the statute of limitations would prevent you from filing a lawsuit. Failure to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires will bar you from bringing it up in court.
However, please note that statute of limitations issues are case-specific—and in some types of cases, the statute of limitations is much shorter—so it’s very important that you don’t wait to speak with an attorney about your case.
Filing the Summons and Complaint
The first step in filing a personal injury lawsuit is informing the defendant that you are filing a case against them. This is usually done using two legal documents: the summons and complaint.
The complaint lets the court—and later on, the defendant—know that the plaintiff intends to seek a legal remedy for the damages or harm that the defendant allegedly caused. It essentially contains a description of the specific injuries that you sustained, the facts surrounding the injuries, and the amount of compensation that you’re asking for.
The summons describes who the plaintiff is and what court the suit is being filed in. It also contains the amount of time that the defendant has to submit an “answer.”
The Defendant’s Response
Once the summons and complaint have been served to the defendant, they usually have 30 days to respond. The defendant’s lawyer will do this by submitting an “answer.” The “answer” is a document that contains the defendant’s response and denial/admission to each of the plaintiff’s allegations. The defendant can also file a motion to dismiss the case if they believe that your allegations are invalid.
The Discovery Phase
The discovery phase begins after the plaintiff and defendant have properly notified each other and the court sees no reason to dismiss the case. Each party investigates the legal claims and defenses of the other side. They may do this through the following forms of discovery:
- Interrogatories. These are written questions about the details of the case. The other party must submit a written answer to the questions.
- Request for Production of Documents. This is a written request asking the opposing attorney for documents that are relevant to the accident. These may be medical records, photos, insurance policies, and receipts or records.
- Request for Admission. These are questions that only require “yes” or “no” as an answer. The other party may admit or deny the statements.
- Deposition. This is an out-of-court testimony that is recorded and transcribed by a court reported. It may be used later to support or dispute the testimony during the trial.
The discovery phase is the most time-consuming part of the legal process. It generally takes between six months to a year, depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s deadlines.
Settlement or Trial
After the lawsuits have been filed and the discovery phase starts, this may lead to either a settlement or a trial.
At any point in the litigation process, the parties are free to agree upon a settlement. If a settlement is agreed upon, you and your attorney form a mutual agreement with the other party and settle the case out of court.
However, if your attorney decides that the settlement offer from the other party isn’t fair, and no agreement outside of court can be negotiated, then your case is scheduled for trial.
Each personal injury case is unique—some may take a few months, while others may span for several years. The most important thing is to get help from an experienced and trustworthy personal injury lawyer who will be with you throughout the entire process.
If you’ve been thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit, don’t hesitate to reach out to the attorneys at 801-INJURED. We’d be happy to discuss your situation and help you get the compensation you deserve.