Learn more about how a personal injury lawsuit works to decide if you should contact a personal injury attorney about your case.
The legal process can be both complicated and overwhelming. Lawyers have their own lingo — and too many attorneys do not take the time to explain the legal process to their clients, leaving them confused about what exactly is happening in their case.
If you have been hurt by the negligence of another person or entity, here is what you need to know about the legal process.
Evaluating The Case
To begin, a personal injury attorney will fully analyze your case to determine whether or not you have a viable claim against another person or entity. While you may believe that another person or organization was at fault for your injuries, the law can be tricky. A good personal injury attorney will be able to assess the facts of your case in light of the law, so you can fully understand the potential merits of your case — including the likelihood of winning.
The evaluation process will start with looking at all of the facts of the case. For instance, if you were injured in a car accident, a lawyer will look at what other drivers were involved, the conditions of the road, and various other factors. Once it has been determined that someone else was at fault, then an attorney may move to the next step: sending a claim letter.
A claim letter is an important step in this process because it puts the other party on notice that you were injured and that you believe they are responsible for your injuries. In some cases, the other party may agree to compensate you for your losses, and the dispute will be resolved without having to go to court. If the parties can’t agree, then your lawyer will likely recommend filing a lawsuit.
If the other party does not agree to settle the claim, a lawsuit will be filed. Your personal injury attorney will draft a complaint, which includes all of the facts of the case, including the parties involved, when and where the incident leading to the injuries took place, and what damages you have suffered. The other side — known as the defendant — will have a chance to answer the complaint and file any claims of his or her own.
Next, the parties gather the facts of the case and make any necessary motions to resolve legal issues before the case goes to court. The fact-finding process is known as discovery. During discovery, each side can ask questions, demand information, and take oral testimony from the parties and other witnesses (known as depositions). The discovery process can take a significant amount of time, but it is important to help resolve the case. There may be facts uncovered during discovery that lead the other side to agree to settle — or provide you with information that will help you win at trial.
Before trial begins, either party can make a motion to the court asking it to do something. A motion is a request where a lawyer sets out the facts and legal basis for the judge to consider. They can take many forms, from asking the judge to prohibit the other side from asking for certain information to asking the judge to limit the evidence that is presented in court. A party can also ask the judge to decide the case before it gets to court, based on the evidence that has been gathered during discovery. Because each party gets an opportunity to respond to a motion and the court may even schedule a hearing to discuss the motion or learn more information, filing motions can take a lot of time — and this process often delays the trial. However, motions are an important part of preparing your case for trial and involve a lot of strategic actions.
At any point in the pre-trial process, the parties can decide to settle the case — even on the night before or the morning of trial. This is part of why it is so hard to predict how long a lawsuit will take. The length of a lawsuit depends on a number of factors, including the court and lawyer’s schedules, how long discovery takes, and whether or not the parties are willing to settle. A good personal injury attorney will make sure that you are updated throughout the process.
Trial and Post-Trial
If the case does not settle, it will go to trial. There, each party has an opportunity to make an opening statement, present evidence and testimony, and make closing statements to a judge or jury. After all of the evidence is in, a verdict will be rendered. If it is in your favor, then your lawyer will take steps to collect on the judgement. If the verdict is not in your favor, you may decide to appeal the verdict. This process may take additional time.
A personal injury case can be a long and complicated process. Contact the Law Offices of Larry H. Parker today at 800-333-0000 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can help you if you have been hurt as a result of the actions of another person or entity.