Filing a personal injury lawsuit may seem overwhelming. But, the process can be a lot easier than you think. Here are simple steps you can follow to file a claim.
Decide If You Have a Case
The American Bar Association Division for Public Education says there are two issues in personal injury claims. The first question is a question of liability. The first question that needs to get resolved is whether or not the at-fault party is liable. The at-fault party is also known as the defendant in these cases. Is the defendant responsible for the injuries you sustained? If so, the second question is about the extent of your damages. A court can compensate you for losses resulting from an accident. This is only if you can show both liability and damages.
Before filing a personal injury lawsuit, you need to decide if you have a potential claim. In other words, ask yourself: have I gotten injured by someone else’s negligence? Negligence refers to the idea that people must use reasonable care so as not to injure others.
At this time, you or your lawyer should draft a demand letter. A demand letter is a letter sent to the insurance company. This letter details how the accident happened. It explains why the other side is at fault and what injuries you have suffered. It also talks about what compensation you are entitled to. When you send this letter, you should include:
- All your medical records.
- Anything else that relates to the accident that the insurance company may need before they can make an offer to settle your case.
Contact a Lawyer
Whether you want to hire a lawyer or not, it is a good idea to meet with one before going any farther with your case. Chances are you have a lot of questions at this point. A lawyer can help you sort through your case and have more confidence as you proceed. You might decide that you do not want to hire a lawyer. But, meeting with a lawyer during a free consultation can help you with your case. You should at least consider talking to a professional before entering the next stages of the process. This will make sure that you are making the right decisions for your case.
Settlement is often an option in personal injury cases. In a settlement, the defendant will pay an amount of money in exchange for you dropping the case. If you choose to settle your case with the other party, you won’t even have to file a personal injury lawsuit. A lawyer can help you consider your settlement options. But it is ultimately your decision whether or not you want to settle.
If injuries are minor or medical bills were low, it may be best to settle. Your attorney will use their discretion in deciding whether or not to negotiate and settle. A lawyer should not negotiate until the injured party has reached “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). Until this happens, a lawyer cannot be certain of the damages the client might be entitled to. It might take a long time for the injured party to reach his or her MMI, but it is worth the wait.
The good thing about settling your case is that you won’t have to go through the trial process. Taking your case to trial can be expensive, time consuming, and nerve wracking. You also don’t have to go through the uncertainty of a trial. You will be guaranteed compensation in a settlement. In a trial, a judge might deny you compensation or not give you as much as you think that you deserve. But, settling your case has its drawbacks as well. You usually won’t get as much money when you settle as you would if you took your case to trial.
It is important to consider all of your options before deciding to settle or file a lawsuit. For help with this process, you can contact our office.
File A Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you don’t agree to a settlement with the other party, you can file a personal injury lawsuit. Even after filing, you can still try to negotiate with the other side. This will happen one final time before going to trial.
Your attorney will prepare and file a document called the complaint. If you do not hire an attorney, you will have to do this yourself. This document states your claims against the defendant and what damages you are seeking. Once the complaint gets submitted, your personal injury lawsuit has been “filed.” It is important to keep in mind that every state has what is called a “statute of limitations.” This means that, as an injured party, you have a set amount of time to file a personal injury lawsuit. In Connecticut, you have two years to file. The clock usually begins ticking on the day that the injury occurs.
During the discovery process, your lawyer will research the legal claims relevant to your case. Your lawyer will send questions and document requests to the defense counsel. He or she will also conduct witness depositions. Depositions are sworn, out-of-court testimony. Discovery can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year, depending on how complicated the case is.
Before proceeding to trial, attorneys in a personal injury case will discuss settlement one more time. If they cannot do so amongst themselves, they may attempt mediation. Mediation occurs when the lawyers and clients in a case go before a mediator to try settling the case.
If your personal injury claim goes to trial, there are several events that will take place. They include:
- Void dire.
- Jury selection.
- Opening statements.
- Witness testimony.
- Presentation of evidence.
- Closing arguments.
- Jury deliberation.
- Delivery of the verdict.
The length of a personal injury trial depends on many factors. These factors include: complexity of the testimony, number of witnesses, amount of evidence, etc. After the trial, parties will have the chance to appeal the verdict if they choose to. For example, if you think that you should have gotten more money as compensation, you and your lawyer can appeal the judge’s decision.
If a judge awards you compensation, you should get it within 30 days of the jury’s verdict.
For more information on filing a claim, contact our office.