Many people are only familiar with legal processes and proceedings from their experience watching TV and movies, but the reality of filing a personal injury lawsuit can be much different compared to the idea you have in your head.
First, it is important to note that every area and aspect of the law is different and is treated and regarded differently. Secondly, your personal injury case may be different from others that you may have read about. This means that although the circumstances may be similar, there is no guarantee that your case will be treated the same way as a previous case and there is no guarantee that you will be entitled to a similar amount of compensation as the victim in the similar case.
That said, when you have sustained an injury as a result of another person’s ignorance, negligence, or wrongdoing—whether an auto accident, a commercial truck collision, a work-related injury, or even severe dog bite injuries—you are entitled to compensation for the damages. Many people are unaware or apprehensive about the process of filing a lawsuit, but in the following paragraphs we have broken down what to expect when you file a personal injury lawsuit.
The General Steps Involved In Filing A Personal Injury Lawsuit
Step 1: Consultation With An Attorney.
After you have been involved in an accident, it is recommended that you seek appropriate medical attention to treat— and also to adequately understand the extent of—the injuries that you have suffered as a result of the accident. After having sought medical attention, it is recommended that you reach out to a personal injury attorney within the set time as provided by the state’s statute of limitations for a personal injury case. In West Virginia, this statute of limitations is 2 years; however, contacting an attorney as early as possible allows you to begin the process of consultation and strategy as fast as possible.
When meeting with your attorney for your initial consultation, come prepared with all the information regarding the accident and the injuries which you have sustained. During the course of the consultation, the attorney will ask certain questions which will help them to better understand the case at hand and also to better determine the at-fault party and take necessary steps going forward. During the initial consultation, you may discuss the following:
- Whether the accident has been caused due to the negligence of the other party involved
- Whether or not there is a defendant from whom you can seek compensation for the damages suffered
- Your legal options
- Your medical costs
- The severity and the full extent of your injuries
Try to be as open and honest as possible during this meeting, as it will help your attorney set realistic expectations about the case and map out an appropriate strategy.
Step 2: Investigation Of Your Case.
If you choose to retain counsel after the initial meeting, your attorney will proceed to launch an investigation into the case at hand. The investigation is aimed at establishing some of the most important facts and also gathering enough evidence to prove that you deserve to be awarded compensation for the injuries you have sustained, alongside other damages. Your attorney will work earnestly to gather evidential pieces like police reports, photographs from the accident scene, the details of the accident including the date, weather conditions, time, state of the parties involved, witness testimony, medical records, medical bills, employment history, payment history to prove lost wages or loss of earning power, and more.
In some cases, your attorney may also collaborate with expert witnesses who can lend professional insight into the case and may also need to reconstruct the accident scene to understand the legal position better.
Your attorney may also seek to secure the vehicle’s data from its black box to analyze the conditions prior to the accident in the case of auto accidents, etc.
Step 3: Demand Package.
After all necessary and needed evidence has been gathered, the attorney will proceed to prepare a “demand package,” which is essentially the settlement requested to cover your damages. These damages may be in the form of property loss or damage, medical bills, rehabilitation costs, pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of earning power, loss of life’s enjoyment, or a combination of one or more of these, depending on the case type.
The letter will be reviewed by the opposing party and an agreement to enter into a negotiation or decline the demand package is reached. If a settlement negotiation is opened, your attorney will negotiate compensation in the your best interest, making sure that your case’s worth is duly considered in the negotiation phase. This is generally referred to as ‘settling out of court.”
If, however, the opposing party rejects the demands, the case may then proceed to trial.
Step 4: Filing A Personal Injury Lawsuit.
A personal injury claim is filed if a victim’s demands are rejected and the case cannot be settled beforehand.
Step 5: Discovery Phase.
In preparation for the trial, the opposing parties are furnished with all the information which has been gathered by your attorney. This allows them to properly evaluate the complexity of the case. As part of the discovery phase, the opposing party is also expected to turn in all evidence that they have gathered.
Step 6: Mediation.
A mediator may be appointed before or after a lawsuit has been filed to mediate between the parties involved, the legal counsel for you—the victim—and those of the opposing party. The mediation is aimed at avoiding trial by arriving at a common ground and preventing further extension of the case.
The steps taken during this process can have a long-lasting effect on the outcome of the case and as such, you need to work with experienced attorneys who have worked on similar cases and have been able to come out with positive results in favor of their clients.
Step 7: Trial.
If the mediation phase breaks down, both parties proceed to trial where they aim to secure a court order toward the cancellation of the case or an award of compensation for the victim. In the process of trial, the decision-makers are often the jury who determines whether or not the defendant is guilty and can award damages to the victim.
Step 8: Appeal.
Depending on the facts of the case, an attorney may seek to appeal the judgment which has been granted either in favor or against the accident victim. Your attorney may appeal to seek more compensation or seek the overturn of an earlier judgment which had struck out the personal injury claim. There can be multiple appeals, so if the initial ruling doesn’t turn out in your favor, there is still much that can be done to ensure that justice is served.
Mountain State Law in Clarksburg, West Virginia is a personal injury attorney experienced in working with auto accidents, commercial truck collisions, work-related injuries, severe dog bite injuries and more. If you’ve been injured due to no fault of your own, you owe it to yourself to seek counsel with an experienced personal injury attorney. Call the lawyers at Mountain State Law at 304-715-3800 or request a free consultation by clicking HERE.