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What Are the Stages of Personal Injury Litigation?

August 17, 2022Firm News

If you have been injured in a preventable accident caused by the negligent actions of another party, you may choose to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against them to recover compensation. Personal injury litigation can be long and complex, but here is an overview of the stages involved.

Stage 1: Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

After a personal injury accident, the at-fault party’s insurance company may try to convince you to accept a settlement offer right away. Unfortunately, this offer is most likely far less than your case’s actual worth. Therefore, it is critical to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help ensure you recover the compensation you need and deserve. They will protect your rights by handling negotiations and pursuing the lawsuit on your behalf. Many personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis, which means you will not have to pay any money upfront. You will only owe legal fees if you win.

Stage 2: Accident Investigation

Once you hire a personal injury lawyer, they will begin building your case immediately. That will involve compiling as much evidence as possible, such as copies of your medical records, reviewing any photos you took from the scene of the accident, examining the scene in person if necessary, interviewing witnesses, obtaining police reports or other accident reports filed at the time of your injury, searching for surveillance footage, subpoenaing cell phone records, or hiring experts in accident reconstruction if necessary.

Stage 3: Settlement Negotiations

Most personal injury cases do not make it to trial because a fair settlement can typically be negotiated with the at-fault party’s insurance company. However, that does not mean your attorney will advise you to settle if it is not in your best interests.

Stage 4: Filling a Personal Injury Lawsuit

If a fair agreement cannot be reached, you and your attorney have five years from the date of injury to decide to file a lawsuit and prepare for trial. Once a lawsuit is filed, there are several more phases:

  • Issuance & Service of the Summon: First, you must file a complaint detailing your allegations, and the court clerk will issue a summons to be served to the defendant (at-fault party). After receiving the summons, the defendant has 30 days to file an answer, which will typically deny most or all of your allegations.
  • Discovery: In this phase, each party sends interrogatories (questions) and document requests, and will take depositions to get a complete picture of the other side’s evidence.
  • Pretrial Motions & Hearings: Both sides can file pretrial motions that essentially set the rules for trial, such as which evidence the court will allow.
  • Mediation: Before heading to trial, the court may require the parties to attempt mediation. Mediation involves meeting with a neutral third party (mediator) who will facilitate conversations between the parties to help them reach an agreement.

Stage 5: Trial

If mediation fails, the case will proceed to trial, where each side will present their evidence to a judge and jury. If the defendant is found liable for your personal injury accident, the court will award you damages (compensation) for your losses. However, if you win, the defendant can appeal the verdict. After a hearing, the court will either reverse, modify, or uphold the award.

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