What Are the Steps to Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
You might expect to file a lawsuit after a personal injury. However, in most cases, you and your lawyer will try to resolve the case outside of the courtroom.
Lawsuits are typically a last resort. They are costly and time-consuming. But more importantly, juries render unpredictable verdicts in lawsuits.
Here are the things you should understand about the steps before filing a personal injury lawsuit.
What Are the Steps You Can Take Before Seeing a Lawyer?
Many of the steps that you take in preparation for filing a lawsuit will happen before you talk to an injury lawyer.
Some of the ways that you can begin preparing for a lawsuit include:
To evaluate your case, your lawyer must determine the legal basis for filing a lawsuit and the potential value of your damages. The lawyer will perform this evaluation by reviewing the evidence in your case.
Some of the information a lawyer might review:
- Medical records
- Bills for treatment, therapy, and medication
- Accident reports
- Wage statements showing missed work
- Names of witnesses
When you hire a lawyer, you will sign a HIPAA medical authorization that will allow the lawyer to obtain medical records directly from the sources.
However, you can help your lawyer to gain a quick understanding of your case if you can bring at least some of these records to your initial consultation. This will save your lawyer time while preparing your case.
Seeking and Continuing Medical Treatment
The basis of your case will be your injuries. To support your case, you must have documentation of the extent of your injuries and your course of treatment. Without this information, a claims adjuster or jury can only speculate about your damages.
Worse yet, without this documentation, you open the door to a claims adjuster or jury speculating that you faked or exaggerated your injuries.
Seeking medical treatment creates an unbiased record of your injuries from a medical professional. It also helps you to prove the extent of the medical treatment, physical therapy, and medication you will need to treat your injuries in the future.
Hiring a Lawyer
One of the most important steps to filing a lawsuit is to choose a lawyer. You can file a lawsuit without hiring a lawyer. But courts generally recommend that you at least consult with a lawyer before filing a lawsuit.
Some of the benefits of hiring a lawyer for your injury lawsuit include:
- Knowledge of court rules
- Management of the case file
- Experience with injury law
- Skill in negotiating settlements
Most injury lawyers offer free consultations to review your case. You should use this time to interview the lawyer to make sure that they have the experience and communication style that will best suit your needs.
What Steps Your Lawyer Will Take Before Filing a Lawsuit?
Once you engage a lawyer, your case will begin moving forward. But your lawyer will not file a lawsuit until they have completed a few more steps.
Investigating Your Case
Your lawyer will review the evidence and may even interview witnesses. The legal team will familiarize itself with the nuances of your case so that they can develop a legal strategy.
Developing a Legal Strategy
To recover compensation, you will need to prove certain legal elements. For negligence claims, you will need to prove:
Duty of Care
The other party must have a duty to exercise care in safeguarding your safety. In a car accident case, all drivers are required to follow the rules of the road. In a medical malpractice case, all healthcare providers must provide reasonable care and skill in treatment. In a premises liability case, all owners and occupiers of land must exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises safe for guests.
Breach of Duty
Your lawyer must gather the evidence to show that the other party failed to exercise the required level of care. This might include witness statements and physical evidence like skid marks or security video of the accident.
Your lawyer must also have evidence of your damages. For example, medical bills and pay stubs will show the expenses you incurred and the income you lost due to your injuries.
The lawyer must have evidence of a causal link between your injuries and the breach of duty. In a typical case, your lawyer will rely on medical opinions to establish causation. Thus, your lawyer might ask your doctor to testify that your car accident caused your traumatic brain injury.
Filing an Insurance Claim
Insurers lay at the heart of most injury claims. Business liability insurance generally covers slip and fall claims. Auto insurance usually covers car accident claims. Malpractice insurance usually covers claims of medical errors.
Most cases begin by filing an insurance claim with supporting documents. After filing, a claims adjuster will investigate the circumstances. The insurer will determine the insurer’s liability and offer a settlement if liability seems clear. Your lawyer will negotiate with the claims adjuster to try to reach a fair settlement.
Preparing the Pleadings
If your lawyer cannot reach a fair settlement, you need to decide whether to file a lawsuit.
A lawsuit begins with a pleading. Lawyers must verify that the evidence supports the allegations in the pleadings or that they have a good faith basis to believe such evidence exists. This is the reason lawyers always investigate and collect evidence before filing a lawsuit.
Litigating the Claim
After your lawyer files the lawsuit, you will go through discovery. This gives both parties time to develop further evidence in support of their cases. At the same time, the parties will continue to try to settle. If you cannot reach a settlement, you will go to trial. There, your lawyer will present your case for decision by a jury.
Taking the First Steps to File an Injury Lawsuit
If you do not know where to start, you should consider scheduling a free legal consultation. Lawyers provide these consultations with no obligation. While the lawyer might not be able to provide legal advice until they see the evidence, the lawyer can help you to start the process of seeking compensation.