What Is The Personal Injury Process?
- 1. Record The Injury And Exchange Insurance Information
The first thing you should do is make sure you document the damage, whether it’s damage to your car, a physical injury, or an illness. Pictures are good for this, as are bills from doctors, hospitals, and mechanics. At the same time, many kinds of accident are covered by insurance (particularly workplace and auto accidents), so make sure you get the correct insurance information from everyone who may be involved.
- 2. Ask For Or Demand Compensation
If insurance is involved, this means issuing a claim and dealing with a claims adjuster who will handle your case, but otherwise it means asking the party at fault directly for compensation. Typical compensation claims include the cost of repairing or replacing damaged or destroyed property, medical bills, lost wages for days you couldn’t work, and in the worst of cases funeral expenses, pain, and suffering. “Pain and suffering” can sound vague at times, but it’s meant to apply in situations where you have trouble adjusting to life after the injury.
If your case is straightforward or your injuries minor, this is the step where things will usually end. You don’t need a personal injury lawyer to negotiate if you’re honestly fine with the settlement, but you may want to consult with one anyway to get an expert opinion on how much your injury is worth. Since most law firms offer a free initial consultation, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
- 3. Renegotiate
If you aren’t satisfied with the initial settlement offer and you do bring in a lawyer to represent you, it still doesn’t mean that you’ll ever have to file a suit. Corporations and insurance companies have lawyers and legal experts of their own, and they often become more reasonable when you prove to them that you’re willing to go to court. You should keep in mind, however, that not every law firm has the resources to go to court, and your opposition will know which ones are which.
- 4. File A Suit And Begin The Discovery Process
If negotiations fail, it’s time to officially start the court process. Still, even at this point the majority of cases never go to trial, and the reason is that all the heavy lifting happens during the discovery process. This is when all the evidence is collected, all the witness statements are recorded, and because both sides have the right to see all the evidence, this is when all the arguments and counterarguments are formulated.
As such, it usually becomes clear which side will win in a trial, so either you’ll reach a fair settlement or the case will be dropped or dismissed. Settlements are most common, however, because most personal injury lawyers are paid a percentage of the settlement and so they try not to accept cases they don’t think will win.
- 5. Go To Court
If the case is too ambiguous or the defendant is too stubborn, you’ll have your day in court. A jury of your peers will decide who’s at fault, how at fault they are, and how much that means they owe you. But you shouldn’t think you’ve won just because you’ve won, or that you’ve lost just because you lost…
- 6. Appeal The Decision
There are any number of reasons to appeal after a trial. There may have been a mistake in the proceedings, a biased judge or jury, or the trial may have left out a key piece of evidence. Appeals may go on for years thanks to court schedules, retrials, and new decisions, and it only ends either when the final appeal is denied or the case reaches the highest possible court. This process costs a lot of time and money, which is another reason why most cases end in settlements.
Personal injury cases go through a lot of different stages, and very few of them get all the way to the end. Still, that is a positive sign, because every case that ends early is a case where everyone left the table satisfied enough to end things there.