What Are the Steps to Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
When someone is injured in an accident, that person might try to settle the personal injury claim directly with the insurance company or the at-fault party.
For example, a person injured in a car accident might file a claim with the other driver’s insurance provider.
The person may work with the claims adjuster to settle the insurance claim. It might be possible for a person to settle a personal injury claim without an attorney.
However, it might not be advisable. The insurance claims adjuster is looking out for the insurance company’s best interest, not the accident victim’s best interest.
Also, an accident victim could spend months trying to settle a claim only to discover that the insurance company is acting in bad faith. It has no intention of settling the injury claim for a fair amount.
Generally, it is advisable to talk with a local personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident or injury. An accident attorney reviews your case, explains your legal rights, and discusses your options for securing full compensation with your personal injury claim.
Having a Fort Worth personal injury lawyer can help you avoid mistakes that could hurt your chance of receiving fair compensation for your injuries, damages, and financial losses. Also, if the insurance company or other party refuses to negotiate a fair settlement, your lawyer can proceed with a personal injury lawsuit.
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Most Injury Cases Settle Without Filing a Lawsuit
Filing a personal injury lawsuit can be time-consuming and costly. It is generally better for you to settle your injury claim without filing a lawsuit. However, that might not always be possible. Some cases cannot be settled without filing a lawsuit. The dispute between the parties is too great to settle through mediation or negotiation.
Investigating the Personal Injury Claim
A lawyer may file a lawsuit very early in the case instead of wasting time attempting to negotiate a settlement. Regardless of whether the attorney files a lawsuit immediately or attempts to negotiate a settlement, the initial investigation of a personal injury case is the same.
When an attorney accepts a case, the attorney investigates the claim. He gathers evidence and information about the accident. Depending on the complexity of the case, the lawyer might hire an investigator, accident reconstructionist, and other professionals to assist in the investigation.
The investigation also identifies the parties who might be liable for the victim’s injuries and damages. Identifying all parties liable for the claim is a crucial step in preparing to file a lawsuit. The lawyer wants to ensure that all potential parties are named in the lawsuit to increase the chance of a full financial award for his client’s damages.
Preparing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
An attorney also researches statutes and cases that apply to the claim. A personal injury lawsuit contains allegations of facts, but it also contains specific legal arguments. Therefore, the attorney needs the results of in-depth legal research and the evidence from the investigation before he can prepare the lawsuit.
Once the attorney completes the lawsuit, it is filed with the court. The lawsuit is served on each of the parties named as defendants. Defendants are summoned to respond to the lawsuit by a specific deadline.
If a defendant fails to respond to the lawsuit by the deadline, your lawyer files a motion for default judgment. If the judge decides there is sufficient evidence to support it, the court enters a default judgment against the defendant. Your lawyer discusses options for collecting the judgment.
In most personal injury cases, the defendants respond to the lawsuit. Their response begins the process of preparing for trial.
Steps Involved in Preparing for Trial
If the defendant responded with a counterclaim, your lawyer prepares a response to the allegations in the counterclaim. The response is filed with the court and served on the defendant. The case enters the discovery phase. The discovery phase allows both parties to obtain additional information from each other.
There are several discovery tools that the parties can use, including:
- Depositions – Oral testimony under oath
- Interrogatories – Written questions that must be answered under oath
- Request for Production – Request for documents
- Request for Admissions – Written requests to admit or deny specific facts or allegations
In some cases, the defendant might settle the case after discovery once the defendant realizes that you have a strong case and substantial evidence proving negligence or wrongdoing. Generally, the parties attempt to negotiate a settlement when they finish the discovery phase, but neither party is required to settle the case.
When the discovery phase ends, the attorneys usually file their pre-trial motions. Motions might relate to evidence or witnesses.
The defense attorney might file a motion to dismiss, and the plaintiff’s attorney usually files a motion for summary judgment. Both sides are asking the judge to rule based on the pleadings filed with the court before the trial begins.
If the case does not settle, the court sets a trial date. The parties prepare their witnesses and evidence to present to the court. A jury is selected, and the trial begins.
The Outcome of a Personal Injury Trial
During the trial, both parties present their case to the jury. Witnesses testify and evidence is submitted to the court. Jurors listen to the testimony and review the evidence.
The judge instructs the jury on the law that applies in the case, and the jury begins deliberations. It is us to the jurors to decide who they believe and what evidence to consider.
If the jury finds for the plaintiff, the plaintiff is awarded an amount to compensate the plaintiff for his or her damages. If the jury finds for the defendant, the plaintiff receives no compensation for damages.
Appeals of Personal Injury Verdicts
However, that might not be the end of the case. The defendant or the plaintiff can appeal the verdict if either disagrees with the results of the trial. An appeal could take years to work through the courts.
Before deciding to file a personal injury lawsuit, discuss all your options with your lawyer. Your lawyer can provide insight and counsel that will help you decide if accepting a settlement offer or proceeding with a lawsuit is in your best interest.
Do not wait too long to contact a personal injury lawyer in Fort Worth, TX if you’ve suffered an injury through little-to-no fault of your own. The Texas statutes of limitations set deadlines for filing personal injury lawsuits. Missing the deadline results in forfeiting your legal right to pursue a claim in court.