There are many types of personal injury lawsuits; but, in general, they follow the same steps in the process from filing to conclusion. If you believe you might have a personal injury claim, here is a timeline you can expect to occur from the accident to the conclusion of your lawsuit.
Seek medical treatment right away
If you’ve been injured in an accident and are considering filing a lawsuit, it’s essential that you see a medical professional for treatment and have your injuries properly documented. Without medical records relating to your injuries, it will typically be assumed that you weren’t hurt enough to require compensation.
Retain a personal injury attorney
While small personal injury claims and insurance claims may be settled without an attorney, it’s usually in your best interests to at least consult an experienced personal injury lawyer regarding the lawsuit you intend to file. Lawyers are useful even for small claims, and they are a necessity if you’ve suffered any significant loss or injury.
Generally, you should always work with a personal injury attorney if you:
- Have a broken bone or other serious injury resulting from the accident
- Are out of work due to your injuries for more than a few days
- Incur medical expenses upwards of a few thousand dollars, even if your expenses are covered by insurance
Attorney investigation and review
Once you’ve retained a personal injury lawyer, your attorney will conduct a thorough interview with you regarding the accident and will evaluate your medical conditions and treatments and your background. It’s important to be honest and upfront with your attorney, so there are no surprises that could negatively affect your case.
After the interview, your lawyer will begin collecting all of the medical and insurance records related to your injury as well as any other records that may have a bearing on your lawsuit such as record for past medical problems. This part of the personal injury claim process may take up to a few months.
Attorney discusses negotiations or demands
Often, a smaller personal injury lawsuit is settled out of court or before the case goes to trial. If your lawyer feels your case can be settled favorably without going to trial, he will submit a settlement demand to the insurance company or attorney for the person responsible for the accident. If settling is not the best option or if the other side refuses, your lawyer will file a lawsuit.
In nearly all cases, the right time to make a settlement demand or file a lawsuit is after you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI), which is when your treatments for accident-related injuries have ended and you’ve recovered as much as possible through other means. Waiting for MMI also allows your attorney to make a better determination of how much your case is worth.
Filing the lawsuit
Once the lawsuit is filed, pretrial procedures will begin. In most cases, it takes 1 to 2 years for a personal injury lawsuit to reach the actual trial phase, provided the lawsuit is filed within the statute of limitations, which is the length of time after an accident in which you’re allowed to file a claim. This statute varies from state to state, and according to the type of personal injury lawsuit.
The discovery process
Next is discovery in which both your lawyer and the lawyer for the defendant (the person or business you’re suing) investigates the defenses and legal claims for the opposite side. During this time, the lawyers interview (take depositions) relevant witnesses and make document requests from the other party. Discovery usually takes 6 months to 1 year.
Negotiations or mediation
After the discovery phase, the lawyers may begin to discuss settlement options. In some cases, two attorneys may arrive at a settlement agreement without other parties involved. If not, the case may go to mediation in which a third party called a mediator tries to settle the case.
Personal injury trial
The majority of personal injury claims are settled or worked out in mediation. But if the lawyers for both parties don’t agree, the case will go to trial. Personal injury trials may be concluded in one day or they might take weeks or even months, depending on the complexity of the case.
The Miami trial lawyers of Baron, Herskowitz, and Cohen have successfully represented many clients in all types of personal injury claims and have helped them receive the compensation they deserve. To learn more about the process of pursuing a personal injury claim, contact us today.