The Personal Injury Blog
When people get injured, they often have a lot of questions about the law and how the personal injury lawsuit process works. In general, there are a handful of steps that happen after someone experiences an injury. Though not all personal injury cases will go through each one of the following steps, anyone who is thinking about filing a personal injury claim can expect the following stages:
The Personal Injury Consultation
The first step in any personal injury lawsuit is meeting with a personal injury lawyer in your area. Because every state has different laws that apply to these cases, only attorneys who have experience handling cases in your geographic area can give you advice. A personal injury attorney will talk to you, ask you a series of questions, and evaluate the facts of your case in light of state and federal law. In the vast majority of situations, this initial consultation does not cost you anything.
Filing the Case
If, after you discussed the case with a lawyer, you decide that you want to move forward with the lawsuit process, you will then file the lawsuit itself. This is a document often known as either a petition or complaint, but it essentially accuses someone else of causing you harm. Most personal injury cases are filed in state courts, though it’s also possible to file some cases in a federal court.
After filing the case, your attorney will begin the discovery process. This is the process through which you find out all the relevant information about the case. This can include asking the people involved questions, requiring the other party to submit to depositions, or demanding the other party turn over any documents that relate to the case.
After a case has begun and both sides have investigated, they will often enter into settlement negotiations. These settlement talks are designed to conclude the lawsuit without the necessity of having to go to trial. For example, the defendant, the party being sued, might offer the plaintiff a monetary settlement. If the parties agree to a settlement, the plaintiff will drop the lawsuit and that will end the case.
If settlement negotiations fail the case will go to trial. At trial, each side gets to present their case and try to persuade a judge or jury as to who is correct. Plaintiffs have the burden of proof, meaning they have to present evidence to show that the defendant is liable. If the court decides that the plaintiff proved his or her case, it will order the defendant to pay damages that it deems appropriate.
Winning a personal injury lawsuit is great, but actually receiving the money the court orders the defendant to pay is something else. The process of getting the money you’re owed is called collections. Collections can require you, for example, to file a garnishment with the court to take money directly from the defendant’s bank account or paycheck or take other actions in order to collect the money.
When someone, either the defendant or the plaintiff, files an appeal, the party is asking an appellate court to review the trial court’s decisions. Appeals can result in the appeals court affirming the trial court’s decision, overturning it, or sending the case back for a re-trial.